American Farm Bureau Establishes 2021 Policies

Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 102nd Annual Convention have adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2021. Key topics ranged from farm diversity to farm labor and dairy policy to livestock marketing. For the first time in AFBF history, delegates met and voted virtually due to COVID-19.

“Our Farm Bureau delegates showed that no challenge, not even a pandemic, will keep them from working to improve the lives of America’s farmers and ranchers,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Their work not only sets policy for 2021, it will also serve as a guide for AFBF as we prepare to work with a new president and a new Congress to ensure we continue to lead the world in producing healthy and safe food, fiber and fuel.”

Recognizing the importance of broadening access to agriculture, delegates voted to encourage increased racial diversity in farming. This new policy calls for increased funding for USDA programs that make inheriting farms easier and increases funding to promote diverse farmland ownership.

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Agricultural Economic Outlook Tied to Pricing, Trade Agreements and More

Commodity prices, COVID-19 and trade agreements are three of the top subjects shaping the farm economy outlook in 2021.

Three American Farm Bureau Federation economists presented their top topics influencing commodity prices, livestock markets and overall farm policies during a Jan. 11 presentation at the organization’s virtual convention.

During the “2021 Farm Economy Outlook” workshop, AFBF livestock economist Michael Nepveux said, “China is the big elephant in the room.” Before the swine flu reduced China’s hog herds in 2018, the country accounted for half of the world’s production and consumption of pork, he noted.

Since then, U.S. pork, beef and poultry exports to China not only rebounded, but also experienced significant increases in 2020. The question Nepveux posed is whether those exports will continue to increase under the new administration.

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Rural Mental Health Workshop Reminds Farmers ‘It’s OK to Not Be OK’

A group with elevated risk for mental health crises may be the least likely to ask for help.

Depressed farm economies, weather disasters and the coronavirus pandemic have turned farm families into such a group. Farming-related stress can be exacerbated by the rural isolation and farmers’ “boot-strap” attitude. Studies show there is increased risk for suicide, substance use disorder and depression among U.S. farmers and rural residents.

American Farm Bureau Federation wants to smash stigmas surrounding rural mental health, encouraging farm families to seek help and help each other. Agriculturalists from across the U.S. discussed these issues Jan. 12 at the 2021 AFBF Virtual Convention during a workshop titled “Farm State of Mind—Responding to the Challenges of Rural Mental Health.” Panelists talked about awareness and access to rural health care services, and highlighted Farm Bureau’s efforts to confront the crisis.

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Virginia Young Farmers Place in AFBF YF Competitions

Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers saw another successful year participating in the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer competitions at the 2021 AFBF Virtual Convention. Young farmers from around the country competed for the awards by demonstrating knowledge of and achievement in agriculture, as well as commitment to promoting the agriculture industry.

Achievement Award

Matthew and Shelbie Heldreth of Wythe County won third place in the Achievement Award contest, receiving a Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and a $500 parts card, courtesy of Case IH, as well as a $2,500 Investing in Your Future cash prize, courtesy of American Farm Bureau Insurance Services Inc. In addition, they will take home $1,850 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker. Fourth-place finalists Brian and Ashley Rhodes of Mississippi receive a Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.

The Achievement Award went to Caleb and Leanne Ragland of Kentucky. They are the winners of a new Ford truck, courtesy of Ford. In addition, they will receive paid registration to the AFBF FUSION Conference, which will be held virtually in March, also courtesy of Ford.

The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Excellence in Agriculture Award

Jonathan and Kelsey Grimes of Wythe County placed fourth in the Excellence in Agriculture Award competition. They will receive a Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH

The Excellence in Agriculture Award went to Jackie Mundt of Kansas. She will receive a new Ford truck, courtesy of Ford. In addition, she will receive paid registration to the AFBF FUSION Conference, which will be held virtually in March, also courtesy of Ford.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Virginia Farm Bureau Celebrated for Outstanding Member Programs and Achievement

The American Farm Bureau Federation presented awards to Virginia Farm Bureau and other state Farm Bureaus at the organization’s Virtual Convention this week. The awards recognize excellence in implementation of outstanding member programs and membership achievement in 2020.

Virginia Farm Bureau also won The Pinnacle Award, the highest honor a state can be awarded for program and membership achievement.

New Horizon Awards, honoring states with the most innovative new programs, were presented to Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Utah.

The Awards of Excellence recognize state Farm Bureaus that demonstrated outstanding achievements in four program areas: Membership Value; Advocacy; Leadership & Business Development; and Engagement & Outreach.

Agriculture Groups Urge COVID-19 Vaccination Prioritization for Farm and Food Workers

As COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed to essential healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, agriculture groups are requesting that frontline food and farm workers be prioritized next.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices agrees. On Dec. 20, it recommended approximately 49 million frontline workers be prioritized in the next phase of vaccinations, including food and agricultural laborers and grocery store employees.

Vaccine distribution is orchestrated on the state level. Gov. Ralph Northam announced Jan. 6 that the Virginia Department of Health is expected to begin vaccinating Phase 1b frontline workers, including food and farm workers, by the end of January.

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