Closing session at the 2022 AFBF convention.

Closing session at the 2022 AFBF convention.

Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 103rd Convention adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2022. Key topics ranged from milk pricing and beef market transparency to urban agriculture.

“Delegates from all 50 state Farm Bureaus and Puerto Rico came together today to demonstrate the power of grassroots leadership,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “The policies set forth will guide Farm Bureau in its mission to advocate for farmers and ranchers and build a sustainable future of safe and abundant food, fiber and renewable fuel for our entire nation and world.”

The Biden administration is paying attention to the cattle industry and made big announcements to help. Throwing a billion dollars at the cattle and beef industry seems a little excessive. 

Delegates also reelected AFBF President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal for their fourth terms.

Long-standing frustration over imbalances in the meat industry led to calls for greater transparency in livestock markets.

As farmers’ labor struggles continue, delegates approved additional policies that build on existing AFBF policies regarding the need for employee stabilization and reforms to the guestworker program.

Delegates voted to bring more transparency to the federal milk pricing system. Several changes to policy include support for a more consistent format for milk checks and a review and audit of the producer price differential on milk. Delegates also called for USDA to publish resources that show how each Federal Milk Marketing Order operates and differs by region.

The meat industry has been highlighted in the past several months by the Biden administration, along with Congress. With higher costs of food for consumers but higher profits for meat packers, the administration is scrutinizing larger companies and taking a closer look at consolidation. 

Delegates updated policy on biofuels to include renewable diesel. The addition recognizes the innovation and potential that sustainable biofuels present in providing environmental benefits while creating opportunities for America’s farmers.

As farmers and ranchers continue to increase their reliance on digital technologies, delegates voted to support raising the standard for federal broadband projects to be at least 100 Mbps for both uploads and downloads.

Recognizing the growth of urban agriculture and the importance of ensuring the success of all forms of agriculture, delegates voted to create new policy to support its continuation and acknowledge its economic contributions.

Presentations

During a recorded message to convention attendees, President Joe Biden expressed his appreciation for farmers and ranchers and highlighted the administration’s priorities related to the Packers and Stockyards Act, infrastructure improvements and promoting fair competition in agricultural markets.

More than a dozen state attorneys general have penned a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, offering insight on issues in the livestock markets and potential solutions to strengthen enforcement under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared his thoughts on broadband deployment, trade negotiations and investments in livestock processing capabilities. Vilsack also addressed the prospect of climate-smart commodities.

“Listening to Farm Bureau and listening to those in agriculture, we know that it’s important to establish a partnership in this effort (to create climate-smart commodities),” Vilsack said. “This is not something that’s top-down; this is really a bottom-up effort.

“We know that it has to be voluntary, and it has to be incentive-based. It can’t be regulated,” Vilsack continued.

Eight workshops were offered, with five available to those registered on the virtual convention platform. Topics included real-world examples of climate-smart agriculture, opportunities and challenges facing rural America, sustainability in the food supply chain and an outlook for the ag economy in 2022.

Top issues facing the ag economy include inflation, uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and labor market stresses, according to AFBF’s economics team.

“When you break it down, there are some interesting things in the labor force participation rate that are worth taking a look at,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. According to AFBF analysis, most sectors of the workforce have returned to participation in the labor market, with the exception of workers ages 55 and over.

Planning for the American Farm Bureau’s 2023 Convention has already begun. Mark your calendar for Jan. 6-11, 2023, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. AFBF

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