01/22/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/22/2021 08:28
By Cyndie Shearing
As our nation transitions to a new president and administration in Washington, D.C., closer to home, new leaders have taken the reins at several state Farm Bureaus. In this article, recently elected state Farm Bureau presidents share their thoughts on current challenges facing farmer and ranchers, their vision for the future and what they're looking forward to most in 2021.
What's the biggest challenge facing farmers and ranchers today?
Carlyle Currier, Colorado - While the vast majority of non-farmers say they support agriculture, they have no idea what the needs of farmers are and how regulatory and economic/tax policies enacted by legislators and agencies can harm a viable agriculture economy.
Courtney Hammond and John Harker (co-presidents), Maine - Each commodity group has its own challenges. Overall, our farmers continue to face marketing challenges, including meeting food safety regulations, trade regulation, changes in markets from the COVID-19 pandemic and adequate pricing to maintain profitability. Included in that is the availability of labor for harvesting, processing and marketing.
Jim Harper, Louisiana - Aside from COVID-19, getting the labor we need to harvest and process the commodities we grow in Louisiana is a huge issue for us. And once that's done, we have to have markets, so trade is vital to keep prices where our farmers and ranchers can make a living.
Garrett Hawkins, Missouri - Profitability across all sectors of agriculture is the biggest challenge I see. Farmers and ranchers are keeping a close eye on regulations, taxes and international trade - issues that are sure to be looked at by the new administration in Washington, D.C. These discussions, as far away as they may seem, hit home with all of us because they impact our livelihoods.
Kevin Krentz, Wisconsin - One of the biggest challenges facing farmers today is the need to find a way to share more of the price risk throughout the food supply chain. In 2020 many industries experienced price challenges resulting from issues throughout the supply chain, not necessarily on the farm level. In Wisconsin, the dairy and the beef industries were heavily impacted.
Paul Larson, Connecticut - I think one of the big challenges most ag operations face is the changing landscape of government regulations and mandates. Farmers in many states are facing initiatives to further regulate pesticide use, mandate restrictive employment policies and otherwise limit how we can operate our farming businesses. Fortunately, Farm Bureau can be a strong ally for farmers, working with legislators and regulatory agencies to protect agricultural interests and priorities.
Tom McCall, Georgia - Government overreach and regulations developed without a solid understanding of agricultural environmental issues remain a major challenge for producers in our state and this country. This seems to be a result of many consumers and lawmakers not understanding the origin of their food, fiber and shelter. Many decision-makers come to conclusions without the background on where their food comes from and often make decisions that have a negative impact on production agriculture.
In a global, competitive market, we are susceptible to difficulties with production of commodities in America compared to other countries that have no labor or environmental rules. This results in unlevel competitive markets. These complicated regulations potentially pose a threat to not only our ability to profitably survive but could also impact our capability to provide an affordable, safe food supply.
Mark McHargue, Nebraska - It's extremely important that Nebraska Farm Bureau works to foster an environment that creates opportunities for our members and our communities to be successful. That starts with relationships. I'll be placing a high priority on meeting with key stakeholders from across the state to reinforce the value of the work being done by our state's farmers and ranchers, sharing our organization's policy positions and finding areas we can work together to advance and grow Nebraska. Increasing direct engagement and communication with farmers and ranchers to hear their thoughts and ideas, in addition to continuing Farm Bureau's focus on finding ways to help young farmers and ranchers, and the next generation of farm and ranch leaders, is also important.
What is your vision for your state Farm Bureau?
Carlyle Currier - My vision is to continue to build on the solid foundation we have established to protect the ability of Colorado farmers to operate sustainable farms, with special attention to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
Courtney Hammond and John Harker - Our vision is to keep Maine Farm Bureau relevant to our members and make progress on all fronts to ensure our farmers can make a living.
Jim Harper - We're working to improve the economic well-being of our farmers and ranchers. We want to make sure there are markets for what we grow and that burdensome regulation does not impact our income and sustainability.
Garrett Hawkins - Farm and ranch families look to Farm Bureau to be the strong, unifying voice for agriculture. I see a new generation of leaders emerging and feel the excitement among county Farm Bureau leaders as we talk about where we want to be, not just next year, but in 10 to 15 years.
Kevin Krentz - My vision for Wisconsin Farm Bureau is to be a leading voice on issues impacting all types of farms and farmers. One of the biggest topics we will continue working on is water. We all need clean and abundant water and farmers have already shown a commitment to finding ways to protect this natural resource. We will work hard to keep our members informed about water, and all the other issues impacting agriculture, in addition to promoting opportunities for them to get involved.
Paul Larson - Connecticut is a small state with a relatively small but diverse agriculture sector. At CFBA, we call ourselves 'The Voice of CT agriculture,' and we truly want to represent all ag producers in our state. I hope we can find ways to support and represent a greater percentage of our state's farmers. We need to discover ways to be even more important to both larger and smaller producers, to find out what their needs are and how we can help them meet those needs and reach their goals.
Tom McCall - Georgia Farm Bureau's mission and modern-day vision is to represent its members, producers and agricultural processors at any level, at any given time. This in turn helps produce positive results that may be of help for Georgia agriculture. When the need occurs, we want to position ourselves to be of service for our agricultural neighbors across America.
Mark McHargue - My highest priority is to ensure we continue to carry out our organization's mission and vision, a mission that centers around enriching the lives of Nebraska farm and ranch families through meaningful advocacy, education and leadership development, and a vision of helping farm and ranch families achieve a great quality of life and prosperity.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Carlyle Currier - I look forward to being able to once again interact with other people on a personal level rather than over electronic media, and to be able to travel to see other farmers' operations.
Courtney Hammond and John Harker - Maine Farm Bureau is looking forward to providing better communication with members in order to keep them up to date on our political advocacy, as well as provide information on tools to help them through the second year of the pandemic.
Jim Harper - I'm looking forward to saying goodbye to COVID-19.
Garrett Hawkins - More than anything in the year ahead, I look forward to more personal, face-to-face interactions with members. COVID-19 may have accelerated our use of technologies like Zoom, but it also reinforced how much we all long for in-person meetings where we do the work of Farm Bureau, making a difference one issue at a time.
Kevin Krentz - I look forward to more in-person meetings and networking opportunities! This past year has taught us to use technology in ways we had never considered, and I envision some of these practices staying around for quite some time. However, I am really excited to attend some events and meetings in person to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
Paul Larson - I'm looking forward to working with our advocacy team during our current legislative session to help steer the conversation toward positive outcomes for the ag community. Due to COVID-19, almost all sessions and hearings will be virtual, with online meetings the norm. This may make it a bit harder as a new president to develop relationships and gain influence, but we'll have to do the best we can. In addition, I hope we can stabilize and grow our membership across all member categories. Every member matters, and as we grow our membership base, we'll be able to be even more effective in advocating for the needs of farmers.
Tom McCall - Moving forward in 2021 and beyond, it is our job as leaders in agriculture to make certain we are good stewards of what has been given us, the necessities of life - food, clothing and shelter. That ensures future generations have what they need, and they can then provide for our country, their children and grandchildren.
Mark McHargue - My hope and goal is to help build an environment where the next generation of farmers and ranchers will have the same opportunities I have had to grow and diversify our family's farm operation. I am 100% committed to the mission of American Farm Bureau and I believe in the power of farm and ranch family members working together to be the voice of agriculture across the nation.