Amy Fannon, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent and unit coordinator in Lee County, took top honors Nov. 28 in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Young Farmers Discussion Meet.
The competition was held at the organization’s 2017 Annual Convention in Williamsburg.
First runner-up was William “Bear” Lloyd of Washington County. Other finalists included Jesse Martin of Rockingham County and Sarah Randolph of Wythe County.
The Discussion Meet competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation is expected from each contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and how well they build a consensus. This year’s final-round topic was “How can Farm Bureau help members with increasing legal and regulatory obstacles so they can focus on farming and ranching?”
During the event Fannon suggested Farm Bureau work more closely with university researchers to “get out ahead” of proposed environmental laws and regulations, especially those not based on sound science. She noted that other industries like mining financially support similar research.
“Our lobbying efforts are awesome; we do a wonderful job with that,” Fannon said, while urging Farm Bureau members to be more proactive in dealing with environmental challenges. “This is an issue that will always, always be on our docket. We will never not worry about this.”
Many farmers and Farm Bureau already are actively speaking for agriculture, Fannon explained, and they need more facts and figures to bring their message to consumers and legislators.
“As we discuss legal and regulatory issues facing farmers, we need to remember that there is common ground” and room for improvement, she added. “Consumers, the government and farmers all want us to provide a safe and secure food supply,” so it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together towards those goals.
Fannon won a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. She will receive an upgraded model thanks to James River Equipment in Buchanan, as well as a $1,000 cash award from Virginia Farm Bureau Health Care Consultants. She will compete on the national level in January at the 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
All four Discussion Meet finalists won $500 from VFBF.
Fannon was an Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Wise County before becoming unit coordinator in Lee County. She holds bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in crop and environmental science from Virginia Tech. Fannon is a former member of the VFBF Young Farmers Committee and lives and farms with her family in the community of Hickory Flats, where they raise pumpkins, corn and alfalfa hay.