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Wyo attends AFBF convention

Written by Rebecca Colnar

Orlando, Fla. – Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) members had the opportunity to escape the cold and travel to Orlando, Fla. Jan. 8-13 to participate in the 97th Annual American Farm Bureau (AFBF) Annual Convention.

The trip was highlighted by the election of Cole Coxbill of Huntley as chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

There were a variety of workshops to attend, covering topics from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to leadership skills and market outlooks to food safety.

Informational presentations

WyFB President Perry Livingston had the opportunity to attend the workshop “Significance Through Dynamic Leadership” that covered raising the next generation of leaders in the organization to keep your farm or organization thriving.

“The workshop was very well attended,” said Livingston. “Presenter Matt Rush did a good job explaining how to leave a legacy that will remain in an organization long after we’ve left it. It was about building up others to become leaders, which is very important for Farm Bureau, as well as for passing on the farm or ranch.”

WyFB Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton found the talk by Mark Lynas, a renowned environmentalist leading the fight against biotechnology who is now a proponent of GMOs, very interesting.

“One point I found especially telling was that when we break with the environmental community, they attack us with emotion and not a lot of facts,” said Hamilton.  “Lynas asserted that we need more advances in technology and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population. He also said that farmers are a believable source to educate the consumers about GMOs.”

Hamilton said the workshop on trade was also informative. Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, gave the presentation.

“They see the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as being very positive for our agricultural exports, especially for beef,” said Hamilton.  “She said that if we can’t maintain and grow our export opportunities and the chances for us to sell our products overseas, it increases both the cost and risk of doing business.”

New leaders

Both Livingston and Hamilton were positive about working with the new AFBF President Zippy Duvall, who takes the reins from Bob Stallman. Stallman retired as AFBF president after 16 years.

“If the smooth transition we made from President Kleckner to President Stallman is any indication, I expect this transition will be smooth as well,” said Hamilton. “Of course, it takes two or three years until we start to see that president’s mark on the organization and what items he feels are especially important to promote. Financial matters are always a concern for the president, and it’s up to our new president to make sure the organization stays strong.”

Livingston has served on the AFBF Board of Directors with Duvall for the past nine years and believes he will do a fine job.

“He is a long-time Farm Bureau member and has a keen understanding of the issues we all face,” said Livingston. “Of course, our Farm Bureau is especially pleased that Scott VanderWal from our neighboring state South Dakota, was elected vice president. He has a good understanding of western issues, such as public lands.”

He continues, “Actually, I’ve known all of the candidates who ran in this election and any of those candidates would have been very good. I do think Mr. Duvall and Mr. VanderWal will be fantastic.”

Delegate session

As for the venerable Delegate Session held on Jan. 12, Livingston said it was quiet this year.

“Because of the elections and the time that took, it seemed the delegation was trying to quickly get through the policy book.  The Resolutions Committee, who worked with the presidents in December, did a good job streamlining some of the new policies, so there wasn’t much controversy.”

Livingston was pleased that several of WyFB resolutions made it into the 2016 AFBF Policy Book unaltered.

“One of those policies said that private landowners receive full compensation for property damage caused by fires/burns caused by a government agency. Another said that we support the Bureau of Reclamation to continue its rules regardless of new standards the EPA has set for waters of the U.S.,” he noted. “Still another said we support the benefits of animal fat being promoted with meat promotions, and we had one that opposed the federally mandated transportation policy that limits the speed of the commercial vehicles to lower than the posted speed limit.”

Wyoming influence

The Sundance rancher said it’s always nice to show state delegates policy set at the county level actually makes a difference.

“Through the years, Wyoming and Montana have brought forward a lot of resolutions on natural resources that made it into the AFBF policy book. It’s rewarding to be part of an organization that really does base its policies on the grass roots input,” Livingston said.

Other activities enjoyed by the Wyoming delegation included attending the Celebration of Grassroots and the Taste of America at the IDEAg Trade Show, the Opening and Closing Sessions featuring the final speech by retiring President Bob Stallman and Shark Tank real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, and Home Free, an a cappella group who performed at the Foundation Night Out fundraiser.

Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..