MACON, Ga. — Those who watched the proceedings at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Virtual Convention saw farm videos and topics from all over the country, and Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) enjoyed a place of prominence throughout the event, held Jan. 10-13.
The event, originally scheduled for San Diego, California, went online in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
GFB was honored with state awards of excellence in: advocacy; engagement and outreach; leadership and business development; and membership value. GFB received the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Scholar Award, given to state Farm Bureaus which made the largest total donations in each of six membership groups. GFB was recognized with the State Leader Award, for state Farm Bureaus whose board members each donated at least $50 to the foundation, and Emanuel County Farm Bureau was recognized with the County Leader Award.
New GFB President Tom McCall participated in a video roll call of state presidents during the Jan. 11 general session. In the closing session, he invited AFBF members to Georgia for the 2022 AFBF Convention in Atlanta. Henry County Farm Bureau Director Jake Carter was part of a general session video detailing how farmers have kept going through the pandemic and was a speaker in the workshop “Communicating to Consumers During Extraordinary Times.”
Karen Garland, GFB’s 2020 Ag In the Classroom Teacher of the Year, was featured during the Foundation Night In session. Garland, who received one of the AFB Foundation’s White-Reinhardt Ag Literacy grants, shared how she & Clark Creek Elementary in Cherokee County used the grant to develop an ag literacy curriculum for the school’s science lab. The lab includes ag bins equipped with resources for students to explore different aspects of agriculture.
“Many of our students have never put their hands in the dirt before so this was a perfect grant that helped us fund what we felt was a very important project,” Garland said.
The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Book of the Year was Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish by Viola Butler and illustrated by Ward Jenkins. Jenkins is an illustrator & storyboard artist from Atlanta. In an interview that aired during the Foundation Night In, Jenkins thanked GFB, Ag in the Classroom and The Dairy Alliance for arranging tours of three Georgia dairy farms that inspired his illustrations for the book. The first 1,200 #AFBF21 virtual convention attendees who registered will be mailed a free copy of the book courtesy of the Farm Bureau Bank.
In his annual address, AFBF President Zippy Duvall noted that while the past year has had enormous challenges, there have been silver linings like being able to attend the convention free of registration cost. Duvall said America’s farmers have continued to meet high standards in spite of the pandemic, and that AFBF has continually pushed Congress to help farmers keep going.
Duvall highlighted AFBF’s work to persuade Congress and the federal government to provide $38 billion in ag relief programs, noted work to replace the Waters of the U.S. Rule with the new Clean Water Rule, worked for updates to policy in the Endangered Species Act and tax reform.
In general session remarks, outgoing Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue thanked Farm Bureau for its support for federal farm policy implemented by the USDA over the past four years. Perdue encouraged farmers to keep pushing forward to seek the freedom to innovate and pursue beneficial international trade deals. Perdue pointed out the USDA’s support of farmers while the U.S. negotiated trade with China, as well as providing money to help farmers as they faced the challenges presented by COVID-19.
“It’s so refreshing to see the great patriots who selflessly commit their lives to feed and clothe their fellow citizens. It’s been a true honor to serve as secretary of agriculture and alongside of you all,” Perdue said.
Duvall and Land O’Lakes President/CEO Beth Ford had an insightful discussion regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted agriculture and highlighted that agriculture is a national security issue for America. Ford and Duvall discussed the American Connection Project (ACP) that Land O’Lakes spearheaded and AFBF is supporting with Cargill, Tractor Supply Company and Microsoft. The ACP is advocating for the federal government to allocate at least $80 billion to close the digital divide between rural and urban America. Duvall and Ford also discussed efforts AFBF and Land O’Lakes are taking to ensure that farmers have a seat at the table when climate policy decisions are made in the new Congress. Both organizations support the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act.
In general session remarks, Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver shared stories about travel, military life, and leadership. He emphasized constantly seeking improvement, staying calm and taking care of each other.
TV personality Mike Rowe visited with AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Sherry Saylor as the closing session keynote. Rowe reminisced about his experience at the AFBF Convention in 2011 in Atlanta and his experiences operating in the pandemic.
“You really don’t know what you’re in for. We didn’t know in March or April what we were really dealing with. It’s been humbling because you wake up every day to a new pivot,” Rowe said. “Farmers are at the very top of the food chain of essential workers.”
During the closing general session on Jan. 13, AFBF honored its retiring board members, including former GFB President Gerald Long, who served on the AFBF board from 2016 through 2020, when he retired as GFB president. Long, of Decatur County, held numerous Farm Bureau leadership positions at the county, regional & state level, including county Farm Bureau president, GFB 9th Dist. director, GFB South Ga. vice president and GFB first vice president. Long and his wife, Janice, have three adult children – Justin, Jared & Jeannie Long Izurieta and three grandchildren. The 2022 AFBF Convention is scheduled for Jan. 7-12 in Atlanta.
If you registered for the convention by Jan. 13, you may access all convention content for 90 days from Jan. 13. Visit https://gfb.ag/afbfvirtualconvention & enter the username & password you were provided from AFBF after you registered.
–Georgia Farm Bureau