February 20, 2019
By Marlee Moore
Above: Farmers from all 50 states and Puerto Rico voted on policy changes during the American Farm Bureau Federation business session. From left are Alabama Farmers Federation board members Joe Anders, Tuscaloosa County; Bill Cook, Montgomery County; and Meador Jones, Marengo County. Below: President Donald Trump encouraged farmers in New Orleans, touting trade treaties and new export markets.
Alabama Farmers Federation members had a front-row seat to history as President Donald J. Trump helped the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) celebrate its centennial Jan. 14 in New Orleans.
Trump earned standing ovations from nearly 6,000 farmers when talking trade, labor and rolling back regulations. It was his second consecutive appearance closing AFBF’s annual convention, which was Jan. 11-16. He highlighted his support of American agriculture, touting successful trade treaties and export markets.
“The American farmer feeds and fuels and sustains our nation,” Trump said. “The future for America’s farmers is bigger, better, bolder and brighter than ever before.”
Trump’s topics reflected AFBF President Zippy Duvall’s review of 2018 achievements like implementing a new Clean Water Rule, tax reform, trade and the farm bill. Duvall also outlined key 2019 issues — including farm labor, research and improving broadband internet access — while reflecting on the organization’s century-long history.
“The most important people in Farm Bureau are our county members. They were back then (in 1919), and they are today,” Duvall said. “We just want to do what’s right and feed people.”
It’s a mindset Alabama farmers understand, said Blount County’s Tim Whitley. The row crop and cattle farmer was one of the state’s 18 farmer-delegates who helped chart AFBF’s path during the business session by voting on policy recommendations.
“It’s extremely important we get what is in the policy book correct so staff can represent farmers properly when meeting with elected officials and government agencies,” said Whitley, the Federation’s District 4 director. “It’s great that this organization was not born yesterday. It has experiences. It has deep roots. It can be more effective because it is 100 years old, and everyone knows what American Farm Bureau can accomplish.”
While at the convention, farmers heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.
Young farmers also represented Alabama at the national level in New Orleans.
Chris and Jordyn Upchurch of Clay County made the Top 10 in Achievement Award, which recognizes the nation’s best young farm families. The poultry and cattle farmers were one of 26 contestants.
Tallapoosa County’s Sid Phelps made the Discussion Meet Sweet 16. Phelps, the Bonnie Plants e-commerce manager, competed against 35 contestants.
Samantha Carpenter of Limestone County competed in Excellence in Agriculture against 28 others. She is the Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s digital marketing and public relations manager.
Alabama brought home Awards of Excellence in all four AFBF program areas — advocacy; outreach and engagement; leadership and business development; and membership value. The state also received an Apex Award for contributions to the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.