After a virtual event last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention returned in-person Jan. 7-12. The convention in Atlanta drew 5,000 farmers and industry advocates from across the U.S., including eight voting delegates representing Virginia farmers.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation delegates were among 345 farmer representatives who deliberated and approved policies that set AFBF’s 2022 legislative agenda. The delegation included VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor; Vice President Scott Sink; Caroline County Farm Bureau President Lynwood Broaddus; Lunenburg County Farm Bureau Vice President William Coffee; Floyd County Farm Bureau President Grey Lineberry; Chesapeake Farm Bureau President Byron Stonecypher; Louisa County Farm Bureau President C.T. Thiemann; and Franklin County Farm Bureau President Tanya Young.
Coffee, a grain farmer in Southside Virginia, has served as a delegate at several AFBF conventions.
“I enjoyed the trade show and workshops, and meeting people from all over the country,” he said. “And the policy discussion in the voting session was really interesting.”
Delegates voted on proposed policy related to key topics, from milk pricing and beef market transparency to urban agriculture. They discussed issues related to labor and broadband expansion, and voted to update policy on biofuels, including renewable diesel. Delegates also elected members to serve on the AFBF board of directors and national program committees.
The convention also featured speakers, educational workshops and award presentations. VFBF earned a State Award of Excellence for implementing outstanding member programs and for membership achievement in 2021.
Virginia young farmers competed for AFBF Young Farmer & Rancher awards. Roger and Amanda Scott of Madison County placed third in the Achievement Award competition. Northampton County farmer Kyle Sturgis was a Top 10 finalist for the Excellence in Agriculture Award, and Jonathan Grimes, a Wythe County farmer, participated in the national Discussion Meet competition.
Four Virginia Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee members and four women delegates participated in workshops, regional caucus events and special presentations.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall spoke at the women’s general session.
“He emphasized we should never underestimate the power of our influence and voice in agriculture,” noted VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Faye Hundley of Essex County. “He encouraged women delegates to continue to be strong and engaged to reach our maximum potential.”
Duvall also opened the convention by discussing the organization’s successes in 2021 and priorities for 2022.
“Through even the greatest challenges, we never waver in growing the safest, most sustainable food, fuel and fiber in the world,” he said. “And Farm Bureau remains true to our purpose—to be that one, united voice of agriculture. I believe with all my heart that there is reason to be optimistic.”
National leaders also addressed the group, including President Joe Biden in a video message, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Biden expressed his appreciation for farmers and highlighted the administration’s priorities related to the Packers and Stockyards Act, infrastructure improvements and promoting fair competition in agricultural markets. Vilsack discussed broadband deployment, trade negotiations, investments in livestock processing capabilities and the prospect of climate-smart commodities.