American Farm Bureau president outlines challenges for coming year

America’s farmers, like the nation itself, face a time of impending changes. The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation told Virginia farmers the best way to approach those changes is as a unified front.

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall spoke to several hundred farmers and other agriculture and forestry professionals Nov. 29 at the opening lunch of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 2016 Annual Convention. Duvall was elected in January and is the AFBF’s 12th president. The poultry, cattle and hay producer and former dairyman from Greene County, Ga., served as president of the Georgia Farm Bureau for nine years.

“It’s a changing time for us and a changing time for our national government,” Duvall said. After the Nov. 8 election he noted that the important issues American farmers face “are not red or blue, but they are critical to the prosperity of rural America and our ability to protect our nation’s food supply. … Now it’s time for our newly elected leaders to turn up for rural America and keep their campaign promises by addressing the issues that matter to the people who sent them to Washington.”

Duvall told VFBF convention participants he believes the change in administration “brings a lot of excitement, a lot of challenges and some opportunities.” He said he is optimistic that incoming leaders will bring an element of common sense to regulatory, immigration and economic issues.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are working overtime to ensure our food supply is safe and sustainable. It’s time our elected leaders put that same diligence to work protecting U.S. agriculture by promoting innovation and ensuring we have an adequate workforce. We need regulatory reform that boosts farm businesses rather than shutting them down. Farmers are concerned for the environment and are hopeful that the new administration will recognize agriculture’s strides in sustainability and protect our ability to produce.”

In his first 11 months as AFBF president, Duvall has visited state Farm Bureau functions in 31 states; he vowed to visit all 50 states in two years. It’s important to learn about farmers’ perspectives nationwide, he said, “because it’s different from Florida to Georgia to Virginia to New Mexico.” He said he will continue promoting unity among AFBF’s state affiliates, as well as unity among U.S. agricultural organizations.

“If you just go to your dairy commodity meeting, and you don’t go to your (local or state) Farm Bureau meeting, you’ve just done half the job,” he told farmers, because consensus on critical issues is key. “Divided, we will fall as an industry, and we can’t afford to have cotton or corn support something that Farm Bureau doesn’t. …We’ve got to put our differences aside and think about the whole.”

When addressing differences, “we’ve got to get (organizations’ policies) as close as we can so we can stick together.”

  With 126,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry and preserving the Virginia way of life. View more convention news as it becomes available at, or get updates via Twitter (@vafbnews).

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-290-1139.

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