American Farm Bureau’s Duvall prepares members for Biden administration

“Stronger Together” turned out to be more than a conference theme this year, as the American Farm Bureau Federation prepared for its annual convention Jan. 10 to 13. With COVID-19 touching the lives of many members, including AFBF President Zippy Duvall himself, the organization turned to a virtual format for the first time in its history.

The convention provides Farm Bureau members the opportunity to set the grassroots policy that will lead staff in their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill throughout the year. Following the 2020 U.S. election, there will be plenty of work for those lobbyists as the administration transitions to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“We are looking ahead, and 2021 brings a new administration,” Duvall said in a call with media. “We are looking forward to working with the Biden team and the new Congress. We’re already reaching out and developing relationships with all the people nominated for cabinet positions. I’ve called and talked personally to several and several have already reached out to me.” One potential cabinet official is no stranger to Farm Bureau. Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has been tapped to return to his former office in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Elected leaders have got to turn the page,” Duvall said. “We’ve got to work together as a country, as one people, for the good of the country. We at Farm Bureau are ready to roll up our sleeves to address the challenges.”

Finally addressing real and meaningful changes to farm labor and immigration, strengthening the farm bill, finally completing the rural broadband grid, and participating in conversations about how farmers and ranchers can voluntarily participate in climate change solutions that are market-based and respect farmers are just a few items on Farm Bureau’s policy list for the next four years.

But pledging to work with the Biden administration for the policy priorities of Farm Bureau members doesn’t mean that the organization will slow down on the achievements it saw the last four years under President Donald Trump’s administration, Duvall emphasized.

While Biden has pledged to bring more countries together in a trade coalition against China, he has yet to say if the current tariffs will remain in place, Duvall said. Farmers aren’t in favor of tariffs staying in place, but they also want to make sure that Biden keeps China’s feet to the fire and makes good on their Phase 1 agreement.

“It sure would be wonderful if the rest of the world makes sure China behaves,” Duvall said. “To provide a level playing field for all farmers across the world.”

Duvall seemed to prepare members for climate change regulations that are likely to come in the Biden administration, and pledged that Farm Bureau would have a seat at the table, and not be on the menu. Part of that effort was establishing two organizations, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance and Farmers for a Sustainable Future.

“These are meant to tell the farmer’s story and the successes we’ve had over a decade doing a better job of protecting our resources,” he said. The goal is to put forth recommendations to Congress that are voluntary, and science- and market-based and above all fair to farmers.

Other policy goals that Farm Bureau plans to focus on under the Biden administration include revamping the infrastructure of the nation—from broadband service to crumbling bridges and roads and everything in between. Duvall said there’s much work that needs to be done to help farmers and ranchers get their crops and livestock from the farm, to the market and ultimately the consumer. And much like the convention theme, America’s farmers and ranchers will be stronger when they work together to get it done.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].