Wyoming Farm Bureau
National level WyFB attend national conventionWritten by Rebecca Colnar Mott
San Diego, Calif. – Leaders of the Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) traveled to San Diego, Calif. to participate in workshops, hear speakers at the General Session, listen to the Young Farmer and Rancher contests, meet other agriculturalists from across the country and, most importantly, take part in the delegate session at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention on Jan. 9-14.
WyFB President Perry Livingston enjoyed the new, improved IdeaAg trade show that offered interactive activities such as a Town Hall meeting with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Foundation Flapjack Fundraiser with notable television personality and wild animal behaviorist Jack Hanna.
“There was a good variety of equipment, vehicles and booths. They seemed to have had good participation in the trade show,” Livingston commented. “In addition, I attended the AFB Foundation Fundraiser, which was held on the Inspiration Hornblower, and more than 1,000 people were on that cruise for dinner. That was an amazing event.”
WyFB Vice President Todd Fornstrom was impressed with a new program this year – the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.
The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a key component of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a joint effort between AFBF and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is directly tied to AFBF’s mission of building strong and prosperous agricultural communities.
“It was interesting to see the ingenuity of the competitors and what they recognized as a need in the community. I thought that the fact that AFBF made this into a competition was interesting,” Fornstrom noted. “I had never thought about how one moves their parents off a farm as different than anywhere else of relocating elderly parents, but there was a group with a thoughtful, efficient way of doing that.”
Fornstrom, referring to one of the innovative ideas, continued, “PastureBird, LLC from Temecula, Calif. created a cost-effective method of producing pastured poultry on a large scale, which was a great idea, too.”
PastureBird won the People’s Choice award in the competition and $10,000 in prize money.
Members of the live audience at the challenge finals competition and members of the general public voted online to select the People’s Choice winner.
“All of the participants had to present their idea, with the final four selected by popular vote,” he said. “It opened my eyes to how people perceive each other.”
He also attended several of the workshops finding the one on hiring practices full of useful information.
“They talked about how complicated the I-9 form is, and if producers use the form, they need to do so correctly,” he noted. “We employ enough people, so it’s important we keep track of everything. It’s very important that if producers fill it out for one person, they need to fill it out for everyone.”
The rancher enjoyed hearing and watching the Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) Discussion Meet competition and found the convention overall to be well organized and educational.
Cole Coxbill, who hails from near Huntley, was also selected to serve on the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee.
“I was elected to be the chair of the Wyoming YF&R this fall, and then AFBF President Bob Stallman nominated my wife Sammie and I to the national YF&R Board,” explained Coxbill. “We are very much looking forward to being on that board and furthering our levels of activity as far as being activists for agriculture. I look forward to bringing the knowledge I gain from this experience back to our local level.”
Coxbill said he enjoyed meeting people from all over the country, as well as Canada.
During a special YF&R event at the trade show, he had the opportunity to visit with officials from John Deer and Case IH, along with vendors and sponsors.
“I enjoyed helping with the Discussion Meet, as well as the YF&R Agriculture Achievement Award and Excellence in Agriculture Award. It was wonderful to hear all of these bright, well-spoken individuals in these contests,” said Coxbill.
He also had the opportunity to attend a special reception celebrating the 50th anniversary of the AFBF YF&R program. The reception featured past and current YF&R leaders, as well as those upcoming in the YF&R committee.
“Meeting people from all over the United States involved in all types of agriculture was impressive,” said Coxbill.
“I love Farm Bureau because it is all about grass roots,” Coxbill mentioned. “We meet people with similar values. Whether they are growing fruit, raising fish, running cattle or growing a variety of crops, there is a great connection with all of us.”
“We are growing in numbers, so coming together at the convention was terrific,” the young rancher continued. “One of our first questions we were asked when we were in the selection process of being on the national committee was how can we grow our organization. To me, it’s all about grassroots. It starts at the county level. That’s where we started. Goshen County Farm Bureau leaders said they’d pay for us to go to the YF&R event in Scott’s Bluff, Neb. We went and were hooked. We recently attended an event with the Wyoming and South Dakota YF&Rs in Deadwood, and it was excellent.”
As the first national AFBF convention Coxbill attended, he wanted to experience the entire convention, including the Delegate Session.
“It was so impressive seeing 354 delegates from across the U.S. voting on the resolutions that guide our national lobbyists,” Coxbill mentioned. “The fact that those resolutions started with a producer in a county Farm Bureau is what makes our organization unique and strong.”
National policy directives
Wyoming Farm Bureau President Perry Livingston noted that this year, the Delegate Session at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention went quickly with little debate.
“The policies Wyoming submitted were mostly passed,” noted Livingston. “It was good to see that resolutions supporting energy development passed, as that’s so important to our state. Of course, policy passed that opposed the federal government and EPA having too much control over our land and water.”
Other policy included a reaffirmation that farmers’ proprietary data remain strictly the property of the farmer or rancher when submitted to third parties for analysis and processing and an agreement that farmers and ranchers must have the right to remove their data permanently from the systems of agricultural technology providers. Members felt especially strongly about this point, given the exponential growth of agricultural data systems and the double-digit productivity gains they have generated in just a few short growing seasons.
Additionally, the body opposed state efforts to dictate out-of-state, farm-level production practices; reaffirmed support for producer-led and -approved checkoff programs; reaffirmed support for country-of-origin labeling provisions consistent with World Trade Organization rules; called for a state-led, voluntary pollinator stewardship program to address concerns over recent declines in the populations of honey bees and butterflies; and supported the production, processing, commercialization and use of industrial hemp.
Delegates also affirmed policies that called for an end to the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to require permits for farmers to repair erosion damage on their property; opposed the current cap on agricultural labor visas under the H2-B program; and called for common-sense reform in endangered species protection legislation.