by Carey Martin & Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - A total of 46 Louisiana farmers and several Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation staff members are giving Louisiana a voice in the nation’s largest farm organization.
Here at the 98th annual American Farm Bureau Federation convention, Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson is one of those delegates and has been for more than three decades. He said while it does feel like “home,” he still feels that it’s a valuable experience each time.
“When you go to these events, you have an opportunity to talk to folks from across the country and hopefully bring better information back to Louisiana,” Anderson said.
“Unite” is this year’s AFBF convention theme, one that Anderson said makes the annual gatherings of farmers from all over the U.S. valuable each time. He said it gives them a chance to build coalitions and speak with a unified voice in the nation’s agricultural policy.
“We need to work with the sugar producers in other parts of the country,” Anderson said. “The rice producers in other parts of the country and cattle producers from all over the U.S. and be able to put all of our voices together to get things passed in Washington.”
Farmers from all areas of the country are facing a flurry of changes in the nation’s leadership in Washington D.C. and wondering how that will affect the nation’s agricultural policy.
“I think there’s a lot of hope out there,” said Anderson, referring to some of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet choices. “We’re getting people that are involved in business operations and people who are more understanding of our environmental issues and how that affects business.”
Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Dr. Mike Strain addressed the convention Sunday in a joint appearance with AFBF President Zippy Duvall. He echoed Anderson’s feelings about the future direction of the leadership in the nation’s capital.
“The attitude in agriculture right now is ‘cautious optimism,’” Strain said. “We are ready to start dealing with the issues. We are ready to know who in the next administration we will be dealing with. We are ready to go ahead and start that conversation.”
Duvall was elected to lead the American Farm Bureau at the organization’s annual convention last year. In his first address to AFBF convention delegates, he challenged Congress to slash regulations and reform immigration and agricultural labor.
Duvall and thousands of Farm Bureau members asked Congress to pass sweeping reform of regulations that burden the lives of farmers and ranchers. Their request followed by days the introduction of major legislation to reassert congressional authority over agencies that increasingly ignore the law and basic constitutional limitations on their power.
“The election should send a message, loud and clear, to our politicians—ignore rural America at your own risk!” Duvall said.
Duvall also called on Farm Bureau members to explain how, every day, the men and women who grow food for America and the world work to make the environment better.
“Just think about it for a minute,” Duvall said. “By using modern technologies, today’s farmers grow more crops on the same amount of land, using less plowing and pesticides, feeding more people. By developing more uses for our crops, like energy, we are making our economy more sustainable. If farmers don’t take care of our land, we cannot stay in business.”
Duvall reminded the 5,000 farmers and ranchers in attendance that a reliable and profitable supply of labor is central to economic sustainability. He called on Congress to pass legislation to assure farm laborers can work without fear of deportation.
“Without a legal supply of labor, too many farmers face lost crops, and they can’t compete on the world market,” Duvall said. “Mr. Trump says he wants to keep American jobs from going overseas. One way he can do that is by keeping America’s food production in America.”
The American Farm Bureau convention wraps up Tuesday when the voting delegate session decides the policy that will set the direction for the organization in the coming year.