Wyo delegation attends American Farm Bureau event
Nashville, Tenn. – While the 2013 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention was underway in Jan. 13-16 in Nashville, Tenn., Wyoming Farm Bureau President Perry Livingston and eight other Wyoming Farm Bureau members attended workshops and meetings, visited the trade show and, most importantly, participated in the annual meeting of voting delegates.
Livingston enjoyed the convention, which was held at the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Hotel outside of the city of Nashville, Tenn.
Talking about issues
“Because the weather was dreary, it worked having everyone under one roof. The facility was wonderful,” said Livingston. “State presidents had plenty of duties to perform during the convention, so we didn’t have much time to visit with other Farm Bureau members.”
“Drought was certainly on the minds of most people I talked with. It’s widespread. Some areas have gotten moisture lately, and we sure hope that continues, but the big concern is what are we going to do if this drought continues,” Livingston continued. “A lot of our pasture land has been under a stress.”
Livingston noted that along with the pastureland suffering from the drought, he’s also very worried about the timberland, a concern shared by other farmers.
“Between the drought and pine bark beetles in the Pondersa pines, timber is taking a real hit,” the Sundance rancher noted.
Farm Bill concerns
Another hot topic on everybody’s mind was the Farm Bill.
“Farm Bureau has been trying very hard to get something pulled together,” said Livingston. “I think that’s the position most of agriculture is taking is it’s essential to get a program on the ground.
He commented, “Having a Farm Bill gives assurances to the ag community on what will happen the next three to four years. It makes a huge difference in knowing what the parameters are and what programs, if any, will be available. Agriculture borrows a lot of money, and if banks don’t know what programs will be available, they will be reluctant to lend money.”
“There are certainly a lot of challenges right now in agriculture,” Livingston noted, “and a lot of those challenges were discussed in Nashville.”
Livingston enjoyed checking out the trade show, which featured a variety of goods and services. Exhibits ranged from several sizes of Case IH tractors, an array of Grainger products and fresh oranges to the Farmers Idea Exchange and even Jack Hanna, famous for his “Into the Wild” and “Wild Countdown” programs, who posed with Farm Bureau members for photos. His props included an armadillo and a flamingo – certainly not critters seen wandering around Music City.
“I thought the trade show had good exhibits and am hoping that Farm Bureau can do more work to increase the volume and type of vendors at the trade show,” Livingston said. “In Atlanta, the show was combined with the Ag Connect Expo, which showcased amazing equipment our members really enjoyed seeing. That would be great to have that again.”
Annual meeting of voting delegates
The heart and soul of the Farm Bureau convention is the resolutions session where Farm Bureau policy is discussed and voted on. Farm Bureau is truly grassroots. Policy developed at the county Farm Bureau level can make its way to become policy at the national level.
The Wyoming Farm Bureau had several resolutions that made it to the AFBF session this year.
“One of the lines in the old policy book that had been stricken was to have nation use an abundant supply of coal, and I got that back into the policy book. Previously the voting delegates had thought it had been covered by other policy,” Livingston said. “We didn’t agree, so it was put back in. We have to keep in mind that the West is very dependent on coal energy.”
The rancher noted that a few state Farm Bureaus voted for mandatory livestock identification, saying, “We were able to stop that. We believe it should be voluntary.”
“In addition, we had an amendment that added language to a resolution that read that national grassland permittees should have the same rules that permittees do on BLM and Forest Service land. At this point, federal grassland permittees have a different set of rules. We supported that they should all have the same,” Livingston noted.
Livingston admires the resolution process.
“I’ve been a part of it for the seven years I’ve been president, and it’s interesting. The state presidents are on the resolutions committee, and we meet in mid-December to go over the resolutions. We’re put in five different committees and we go through each section of the policy book and look at all of the incoming resolutions from the state Farm Bureaus,” he explained. “Every year a section of the book is reviewed by the committee to make sure policy isn’t too similar in different sections. There has been a lot of effort to review and improve the policy book and make it flow better. I think we’re on the right track because there’s not as much debate during the resolutions session as there used to be – and Farm Bureau’s influence in Washington, D.C. is top notch.”