New Faces at Virginia Farm Bureau!

We have seen a few staff changes over the last few months at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and would like to introduce you to two fresh faces that will be working to support our members across the state.

Samantha “Sam” Norman is our new Program Support Specialist. Sam will be supporting Governmental Relations meetings, the policy development process, and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC. She will also be supporting fundraising staff for the Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) with their fundraising efforts. Sam obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Virginia Tech. She holds a master’s degree in Agriculture and Applied Economics and a bachelor’s degree in Animal and Poultry Science. Sam grew up on a draft horse and mule farm in Baltimore County, Maryland. Currently she and her husband Brian reside on a farm in New Kent County where they are raising their son Walter. Sam still enjoys her draft horses and mules on their farm in Quinton where she rides and drives as much as possible. Sam shared she is excited to join the governmental relations team!

Samantha “Sam” Norman, Program Support Specialist, with her husband Brian and son Walter

Elijah Griles is our new Commodity Specialist in the Agriculture, Development & Innovation Department. Elijah was born and raised on a small cow/calf farm in Amelia County. Whether cutting hay, working calves, or simply going for a stroll through the pasture in the evening, he loves being in nature and working with all creatures. A 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech he is also a dyed in the wool Hokie. Completing degrees in both Theatre Arts and Animal and Poultry Sciences, Elijah was often asked how he could possibly combine the two. At graduation he revealed that he did so by serving as the HokieBird, Virginia Tech’s beloved mascot. He is excited to work with members and use his background to tell the story of Farm Bureau in his new position in the Department of Agriculture, Development, and Innovation. When not doing something agriculture related, he loves playing music, backpacking, rock climbing, and doing anything outdoors with people that he loves. Although Virginia will always be home, he finds a way to go to some faraway place from time to time, having visited 47 states and 7 countries. He can’t wait to see where Farm Bureau takes him!

We hope you will soon be able to meet and work with both Sam and Elijah! We are excited about their joining our team and all that the future brings with their support of our members and all Virginia agriculture and forestry!

Elijah Griles, Commodity Specialist

Meet our Summer Interns

One of the most rewarding opportunities at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, both for students and our staff, is the summer internship program. Past interns have gone on to work in fields such as advocacy, association management, research, state government, and yes even working in our department today. Both Stefanie Taillon and Martha Moore were interns in the Governmental Relations Department. Typically, we have openings for interns in odd years coinciding with state elections in Virginia. This year we have two interns working with staff. Both have been doing a wonderful job and I wanted each to share a little about themselves as they near the end of their time with us.

Samantha Owens

I was born and raised in Upstate New York in a small town called New Hartford, New York. I grew up on my family farm and that is an experience that I cherish. My great-grandfather started the farm after immigrating from Wales in the 1920s and the farm has been in the family ever since. Although it started as a dairy farm, the operation of the farm has changed with pretty much every generation. My grandfather raised veal and hogs for years with the help of my dad and his brothers. My uncle now runs the farm and raises sheep, highland cattle, and, most recently, four piglets. My parents both have careers outside of farming now, but my mom actually worked as a field advisor with the New York State Farm Bureau when she was in her 20s. Needless to say, she is absolutely thrilled that I am working with the Virginia Farm Bureau this summer.

                I just graduated from the University of Virginia this past May, where I majored in government and minored in public policy and leadership. During my time at UVA, I fell completely in love with Virginia and all that it has to offer, so much so that I decided to stick around. This fall I will be starting my first year at the University of Richmond School of Law. Although I am not entirely sure of the type of law I would like to practice in the future, I am interested in environmental law.

                This summer I am helping the Governmental Relations team with the AgPAC. As a New Yorker, this internship has been a great immersion into Virginia State Politics. I love that this internship provides me with an opportunity to work with the Governmental Relations team, Field Service Directors, candidates running for office, and some of our farmers. 

Samantha Owens

Newlin Humphrey

I grew up in Fluvanna County and my interest in agriculture began when I joined FFA at Fluvanna County High School. Although I did not grow up in production agriculture, my passion and connection to the agricultural industry deepened as continued through FFA and began riding horses competitively. From 2018-2019, I served a Virginia FFA State Officer alongside 7 other individuals and had the opportunity to see the incredible impact that agriculture and agricultural education has on people throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.

My love of agriculture is continuing at Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) where I am a current junior and studying Agricultural Leadership with a concentration in International Affairs and Policy. Through National FFA, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and see agriculture on a global scale which sparked my interest. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in international agriculture or immediately being working in the industry.

This summer at Farm Bureau I have had the opportunity to work with Governmental Relations, Young Farmers, and Membership and Field Services. Through my projects I have been able to advocate for Virginia agriculture, and work with members to ensure that Farm Bureau is able to offer unique programs and facilitate an environment where agriculture can progress and thrive.

Newlin Humphrey

We know these two will do remarkable things and we are happy they wanted to spend this summer working at Virginia Farm Bureau to learn more what we do!

New AFBF Campaign: Stop the Flood of Regulation

Farmers are working to stop an effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate waterways Congress never intended the agency to regulate.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has launched its “Stop the Flood of Regulation” campaign because it believes the EPA is trying to improperly alter the Clean Water Act. That law gives the EPA the power to write rules to protect navigable waters.

Using what is called a guidance document, the EPA is seeking to take the word “navigable” out of the law, which would allow it to regulate even a roadside ditch that holds water after a heavy rain.

“A guidance document is supposed to be a non-binding policy document for field offices on how to implement current law and current policies,” said Cody Lyon, AFBF grassroots and advocacy director.

Of concern to Farm Bureau, Lyon said, is that “there’s uncertainty with how this guidance document can be implemented. This could be interpreted many different ways around the country or even many different ways within a state. For 40 years the Clean Water Act has done a great job. The problem is the guidance document goes beyond Congressional intent, and they’re also ignoring the Supreme Court precedents that have determined the definition of ‘navigable.’”

That could be problematic for farmers and ranchers, who fear that even a farm pond or ditch could now fall under EPA permitting regulations.
“We’re talking thousands, tens of thousands of dollars,” he said, because the guidance could affect “anything dealing with livestock operations, anything dealing with applications of pest management tools, anything dealing with wetlands, groundwater, runoff, storm water. You could start having a flood of regulations that start coming in just from this one guidance document.

“We’re trying to make sure we stop this flood of regulations at the very beginning, before it starts getting out of control.”

Farm Bureau is asking its members who farm to tell their Congressional representatives how hard the new rule could hit them, and to ask for support of H.R. 4965, a bill that would preserve existing U.S. water rights and responsibilities in the Clean Water Act.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the EPA guidance document “improperly changes the law of the land,” and he asserted that, in issuing it, the EPA is bypassing the necessary public outreach required under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Please stay turned for more information and action alerts related to this campaign in the next few weeks. To sign up action alerts, please contact Kelly Pruitt at or 804-290-1293 with your producer membership number.

Advocacy Must Engage the Congregation

Bob Stallman
AFBF President

Throughout the years, we’ve counted on your voice to help us educate our state and national legislators on issues that greatly affect the agricultural community. Thanks to your letters, phone calls and visits, we’ve greatly influenced the way our legislators view agriculture. You are the most powerful resource we have in educating legislators about Virginia farmers.

But for Virginia Farm Bureau members,educating our leaders abou important ag issues takes a back seat in the spring and summer months–and for very good reason. Here’s a nice reminder from Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president, and the importance of advocacy and reaching out to those outside of our industry.

Advocacy Must Engage the Congregation

by Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation President

Farm Bureau’s brand of advocacy has been a key part of my entire adult life. I first got involved with the organization when I was relatively young and was having problems with the state of Texas over water rights on my farm. I traveled to a committee hearing in Austin—the first time I’d been to a hearing and the first time I’d been to the state capitol—and met Farm Bureau representatives testifying on behalf of landowners’ water rights. I realized then and there that they were advocating for me and my rights.

When I got home, I took a deliberate step to become involved in my home county Farm Bureau in Colorado County, Texas. I saw first-hand that farmers and ranchers have to be the ones to stand up for agriculture to influence decisions that affect us, otherwise plenty of other people would be more than happy to make those decisions for us. Now, I can’t imagine my life if that hearing in Austin had never happened.

Since those early days at the Colorado County Farm Bureau, I’ve been blessed to travel our great nation, and the world on behalf of Farm Bureau members. From the formality of congressional hearings on Capitol Hill, to the international flavor of world trade negotiations, I still feel most comfortable and at home when I’m headed down a country highway to a friendly, local school cafeteria for a county Farm Bureau meeting. The grassroots level is where all true agricultural advocacy begins.

As I hear the voices and soak in the energy from these grassroots Farm Bureau meetings, it gives me a personal connection to the issues I deal with. Most of the time what they have to say is good, some of the time it’s not. That’s the beauty of Farm Bureau, there’s always room for healthy debate. But in all of my travels, I have never met a farmer without something to say, or more importantly, not willing to get involved to help further our grassroots process. It’s this commitment of our grassroots members who play an active role in U.S. agriculture policymaking that makes Farm Bureau one of the most successful advocacy organizations in this nation.

As Farm Bureau members, it is ingrained in us to be actively involved and to fight for what we believe in and for what we think will better our profession and our country. We are not ones to rest on our laurels while others do the work. We are also not the types to make a lot of noise about an issue and stop there. Farm Bureau members roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when it comes to matters that are close to our hearts.

They talk to their neighbors and other members of their community. And they share their personal stories through many platforms, traditional and new.

This, to me, is what advocacy is all about.

But, it doesn’t stop there. The future of upholding agriculture lies in farmers and ranchers being able to communicate in an even deeper and more meaningful way with consumers. We are being asked to fully take in the consumer point of view. We are being asked to answer questions in a meaningful and responsive way. Times are changing. Consumers have not only grown more interested—but have greater influence—in the type of food they consume and how it is produced.

Unfortunately, without the cultivation of deeper connections with consumers, many are apt to view farmers as the unfortunate puppets of Big Ag, because that is pretty much the scope of the emotionally charged messages they read and hear from those planting seeds of doubt about today’s agriculture. It truly is time for a consumer intervention, but one that makes significant and meaningful connections through the qualities of shared values, mutual respect and common ground. The two-way conversation needs to become a connection built on a foundation of understanding and ideals.

I’ve learned many things in my agriculture career. For instance, it never rains when you need it to and there will always be more taxes. More importantly, I’ve learned that farmers and ranchers are the best advocates for their land, their animals and the food they produce. But to be our best advocates, we have to stop preaching to the choir and engage the congregation. It may not be easy and it may not always be comfortable, but it is the best way to ensure the future of those who follow in our chosen profession of agriculture.