Advocating for agriculture is more important now than it has ever been. Farmers and ranchers are standing up for their industry, and helping to educate others. This is exactly what Farm Bureau members learned to do at their 94th annual convention.
The convention’s theme, Stand Up for Farm Bureau, focused on teaching members ways in which they can be advocates for themselves, as well as for the industry. The convention was held November 15-18 in Denver, Colo.
The opening session featured several speakers. Don Shawcroft, President of Colorado Farm Bureau, talked with the members about the importance of standing up for what they believe in. “As individual members, in our circles of influence and whenever an opportunity comes along, may we all seize opportunities to stand up for Farm Bureau,” he said.
He also spoke to the members about the importance of the estate tax issue, and urged everyone to contact their local representatives to voice their opinion on the estate tax exemption, and the detrimental effect that it will have on agriculture if the exemption is allowed to expire.
Another important speaker was Karen Budd Falen, attorney at Budd-Falen Law Offices L.L.C. in Cheyenne, Wyo.
She spoke about the purpose of the government. “The government is to work for the citizens. It’s not the other way around. That means they have to have a law or rule or statute allowing them to do whatever they need to do,” she said.
She continued, “What you need to remember about the constitution, is it does not give you rights. The constitution is the document that is set up to prevent government to take your rights.”
She then also talked about the estate tax. “Do you know what that’s going to do to a ranch when you tax it at 55 percent above the exemption? We cannot survive if that exemption goes away. We will have to sell the land. It will cripple agriculture if it is taxed that high,” she stated.
The next speaker was Mace Thornton, Acting Director, Public Relations for American Farm Bureau. He spoke about consumer messaging. “We don’t have the benefit of the doubt anymore. Our audience is suspect of our motive. They challenge our facts and respond emotionally. No longer can we simply educate. Now it’s about engagement,” he said.
He continued, “We must acknowledge concerns that we hear from people who buy our food products. We must build mutual respect, and then establish shared values. Only then can you break the walls of misunderstanding, build bridges of trust and then give them informed choices. We have the ability to get it done.”
He then talked about ways that producers can educate through telling their story. “Experiences and storytelling matter more than repeating messages. Give consumers access to all sides of information, and allow them to discover the truth. Everyone is a food stakeholder because everyone eats,” he said.
In the afternoon, attendees could pick between several breakout conferences. Those included a technology conference, a public policy conference, and an ag education and promotion conference.
The technology conference, hosted by Thornton, taught members about different applications they can used to organize and increase efficiency on the farm.
During the public policy discussion, Brent Boydston, CFB Vice Presdient of Public Policy, Nick Colglazier, CFB Director of Public Policy, State Affairs and Stan Dempsey, Colo. Petroleum Assoc., presented a political breakdown in light of the recent election. They reviewed the election, and forecasted the political realities resulting from the election at both the state and federal level.
The ag education and promotion conference was hosted by Marc and Hollie Henry, American Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee members, LeeAnn Bee, Vice President for the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture, and Sara Bray, CFB YF&R Committee member. They discussed new and proven methods for promoting and educating about agriculture to a nation unaware of its importance.
The next day, members participated in the policy voting delegate session, elected new officers, and held committee luncheons. The women’s committee luncheon featured KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner, who teaches about agriculture through music. She performed for the women several of her songs, including the one she wrote for Farm Bureau called “Here’s to Colorado.”
That evening during the banquet, several awards were presented. Phyllis Snyder and Jim Miller were awarded the Service to Agriculture Award. Colorado Farm Bureau awards two individuals with the Service to Agriculture Award every year at its awards banquet in conjunction with the CFB Annual Meeting.
Synder, who is also a member of the San Juan Basin Farm Bureau, was given the award for inside Farm Bureau for her dedicated years of service to Colorado Farm Bureau. She has served in nearly every position at the county level, and was the first female county president in the state.
She truly believes in the Farm Bureau mission, and is always willing to share her experiences. “I have always told people that the Farm Bureau representation at the county, state and national level is the most important part of our organization. The next most important part is the resources available, information on all the issues and programs, and help to do whatever program you would want to do to promote agriculture.”
She added, “My family and friends have always supported, assisted, and encouraged me and I hope to continue representing agriculture and Farm Bureau in many more ways in the future. My life experiences taught me to be an organizer, participator, and to have a commitment to organizations or events that keeps me going year after year whether it is consumer education, agriculture regulations, local water issues, big family events and small county Farm Bureau activities or letter writing and e-mails to legislators,” she said.
Miller was given the Service to Agriculture Award for outside Farm Bureau for his many years of service at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. He served as the Public Information Office for over nine years, and then served as the Director of Policy and Initiatives.
“In my tenure with the department, I worked closely with four governors’ staffs and with seven commissioners of agriculture: Tim Schultz, Peter Decker, Steven Horn, Tom Kourlis, Don Ament, John Stulp and John Salazar,” said Miller.
He finished his career serving as the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture for four years. Miller now lives with his family in Akron, Colo.
There was also competition at the annual meeting. Young Farmer and Rancher members and Collegiate members competed in discussion meets, which simulates a county meeting. Contestants are judged on their ability to articulate their position and lead a discussion.
Out of a total of 10 contestants, James Henderson was the winner of the 2012 Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. Second place was awarded to Zanden Bray. The four finalists were Zanden Bray, James Henderson, Sara Bray and Kiley Henderson. James will compete at the national American Farm Bureau discussion meet competition in Nashville in January.
Out of a total of nine contestants, Shelby Cochran was the winner of the 2012 Collegiate Discussion Meet. Second place was awarded to Landan Schaffert. The four finalists were Shelby Cochran, Landan Schaffert and Alison Seedorf from CSU, and Jesse Hitchcock from NJC. Cochran will move on to compete at the collegiate finals during the Young Famer and Rancher National Leadership Conference in Pheonix in February.
Nathan Weathers was announced as the 2012 Young Farmer and Rancher Emerging Leader. Nathan served as the YF&R Committee Chair, and has been involved in the policy development process and has demonstrated strong leadership ability. A Yuma county corn farmer, Nathan farms with his wife Nikki and their two children, Ty and Tenley. ❖
“I have always told people that the Farm Bureau representation at the county, state and national level is the most important part of our organization. The next most important part is the resources available, information on all the issues and programs, and help to do whatever program you would want to do to promote agriculture.”
~ Phyllis Snyder, recipient of the Service to Agriculture Award