This past week I returned from one of the best weeks of the year, the American Farm Bureau Convention and Annual Meeting. It is truly something I look forward to each year and a highlight on my calendar.
My favorite thing about the meeting is people in agriculture from all across the United States come together to decide on how to tackle the toughest issues facing our industry. I always meet new and interesting people like the sweet potato farmer from Mississippi I got to eat lunch with on Sunday. Our crops may have been different, but we spoke one common language — agriculture.
I really enjoy just hanging out in the hallways listening to everyone talk about the weather and what was going on at their farms and ranches. It is a time to renew old friendships like my good friend Ben from Georgia or my buddy Rick from Idaho. We see each other once a year, but it does not take long to catch up on our lives. I love listening to the different accents and ways of communicating.
The American Farm Bureau is truly a big tent organization; the meeting brings in producers from all across the nation. All types of agriculture from vegetables to honey, row crops, cattle and everything in between. You will find some of the largest farmers and ranchers in the same room as producers with much smaller operations. The best part is that there is a seat at the table for everyone.
I really enjoy the general sessions, and this year I attended some highly informative workshops. I also had the privilege of judging the Young Farmer and Ranchers Committee’s Excellence in Agriculture award. I have to say it was humbling to listen to all the great accomplishments of the applicants, the amount of work they have done is absolutely amazing. I am also sure the tours were fantastic but, in my mind, those great events were not the most important part of our week in Atlanta.
The annual business meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation is what we all come for. When we take the ideas that started out at the grassroots level and were distilled and refined through the state and national process and make the final tweaks before we adopt them. This policy making process is the blueprint of what will happen for the next year, our playbook of how to guide legislators and regulators for the benefit of agriculture.
This process is tough, and it can be contentious at times. When you have an organization as diverse as ours not everyone will agree on how things should be done. In the end, arguments are presented, and points are made. The voting delegates take the information provided to them and make decisions shaping ag policy for at least the next year if not longer. Almost as soon as the gavel sounds, members begin working on policy for next year and looking forward to another good week in January.