American Farm Bureau leader: ‘We are the 1 percent’

HONOLULU — America’s farmers are more productive than ever and are providing a solid economic foundation for the U.S., according to head of the nation’s largest farm organization.

“We are the 1 percent that is producing food and fiber for the other 99 percent,” declared Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Jan. 8 in his annual address to the approximately 7,000 Farm Bureau members gathered for AFBF’s 93rd annual meeting.

“Over a 20-year period, corn yields are up 41 percent. Per bushel soil loss has fallen by 70 percent. Water use per bushel of corn is down 27 percent. All major crops show similar trends,” said Stallman.

He also touted the record-breaking growth in U.S. agricultural exports over the past year.

“We sold $42.5 billion more in agricultural products than we imported in 2011,” he added.

Farm bill

Stallman discussed Farm Bureau’s Systemic Risk Reduction Program proposal, which he said would help protect farmers from catastrophic losses while recognizing today’s budget realities.

Farm Bureau delegates debated the risk management program and other farm policies Jan. 10.

Talk to consumers

Just as important as these policy concerns is the conversation with consumers, he said.

“We must engage directly with the consumer as an industry in ways we haven’t before,” Stallman said. “And … we must also never, ever forget to listen.”

He said the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a group of 77 agricultural organizations and companies including Farm Bureau, is doing that by listening to and answering Americans’ questions, as well as giving farmers and ranchers an opportunity to raise their voices.

“From the environment to the economy, trade and jobs, we have a great story to tell,” Stallman proclaimed.

States recognized

State Farm Bureaus were recognized for excellence in membership achievement and for implementing outstanding programs.

Winners of the Pinnacle Award, for overall outstanding program achievement combined with membership growth, included Farm Bureaus is Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Awards for Excellence and the President’s Awards were presented in five program areas: agriculture education and promotion, leadership development, member services, policy implementation, and public relations and information.

The winning states and the number of Awards for Excellence categories won by each include:

Alabama (5); Arizona (5); Arkansas (5); California (4); Colorado (1); Florida (4); Georgia (4); Idaho (5); Illinois (5); Indiana (5); Iowa (5);

Kansas (4); Kentucky (5); Louisiana (4); Maryland (4); Massachusetts (1); Michigan (5); Minnesota (4); Mississippi (3); Missouri (5); Montana (5);

Nebraska (4); Nevada (3); New York (4); North Carolina (3); Ohio (5); Oklahoma (2); Oregon (5); Pennsylvania (5); Rhode Island (1);

South Carolina (4); Tennessee (5); Texas (5); Utah (4); Virginia (4); Washington (4); Wisconsin (5); and Wyoming (2).

The winning states and the number of President’s Awards won include:

Arizona (1); Idaho (3); Indiana (1); Kansas (1); Massachusetts (1); Michigan (2); Missouri (1); Montana (3); Nevada (1); Ohio (2); Tennessee (3); Texas (2); Utah (1); Virginia (3); and Wisconsin (1).

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