SUGARCREEK, Ohio — When Bob Stallman returned to the family farm after graduating from the University of Texas, Texas lawmakers were debating groundwater control legislation that had a huge impact on the Stallman farm.
He got fired up enough to head to Austin to attend a hearing on the issue, even though he had never been to one and had no idea what to expect. As he stood in the back of the packed room, he listened as a Texas Farm Bureau member testified, stating Stallman’s views better than he could have himself.
It was then Stallman — the son of a Farm Bureau member and grandson of a charter member of the Colorado County Farm Bureau — realized the value of the farm organization to him personally. It was his voice in the world of public policy.
“I got involved in Farm Bureau because of policy,” said Stallman, who now serves as president of the American Farm Bureau Federation after coming up through the ranks, first as a county board member and county president, then president of the Texas Farm Bureau.
Stallman shared his story and insight on current issues facing agriculture Aug. 25 at the Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau annual meeting in Sugarcreek.
His take-home message? “Involvement is key,” Stallman said.
“That’s why we have the influence we do.”
That success “starts and ends with you” at the local level, he added, challenging the members to do more as advocates for agriculture.
“We cannot be successful without your commitment and involvement.”
With changes in the new farm bill, the push toward renewable fuels and more volatile markets, U.S. farmers are facing “exciting and challenging times,” Stallman said.
“The future of agriculture looks brighter than it has for a long time,” he added.
Even with the food vs. fuel vs. feed debates, the overarching demand for energy, specifically alternative energy, around the world creates opportunities for farmers.
“It’s kind of a new world for agriculture.”
The farm leader acknowledged concerns about adequate supplies for both the fuel and food demands, but said supply and demand fundamentals will prevail. Can farmers produce enough? “They’ll produce themselves back into low prices,” Stallman predicted.
He added, however, that the U.S. needs a comprehensive energy plan, something Congress has not been willing to tackle.
“We need to produce energy from every source possible,” Stallman said. “Agriculture can be part of that solution.”
Saying the November presidential election has “great consequences,” Stallman said there’s something about each candidate that Farm Bureau likes.
Sen. Barack Obama is more supportive of farm policy and renewable fuels, Stallman explained, while Sen. John McCain’s trade and tax policies are “more to our liking.”
Neither the American Farm Bureau nor the Ohio Farm Bureau makes a presidential candidate endorsement.
Any change in administration is challenging, particularly because of the need to educate new political players on agriculture and policy implications, he added.
Stallman also expressed concern that new faces on Capitol Hill don’t have an ag connection and aren’t aware of the impact many issues, like immigration, have on agriculture.
During the annual meeting, Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau members approved a $5 increase in the county dues, going from $60/year to $65.
The county’s volunteer leaders were also recognized for earning the Ohio Farm Bureau’s presidential award, with a gold rating, the highest state award possible for local programming.
Neil Deam of Deam’s Hoof Care received the county’s Excellence in Agriculture award. Deam, who started his hoof trimming business in 1998, now works with 60 clients and more than 6,200 animals. He also raises and shows Holsteins at the local, state and national level.
Steve and Sonya Quillin received the Outstanding Young Farmer award. Steve farms 800 acres with his father Jan and brother Eric, and manages the 120-head Holstein herd as well as the 200 recipient heifers and bull calves they raise for beef.
He currently serves on the county Farm Bureau board.
The Ag Educator award went to Angie Cabot.
Dan Widder and Jerry Lahmers were re-elected to the board of trustees. They will be joined by newly elected trustees Carol Mutti, Reuben Erb and Scott Glazer.
Members also elected Bob Demuth, John Feller, Connie Finton, Don Hoffman and Amy Yoder as delegates to the 2009 state annual meeting.