Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 105th Convention adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2024. Key topics ranged from artificial intelligence, to labor, to crop insurance.
For the second year, delegates were polled at the beginning of the voting session regarding their farms. The results show 99% of those who cast votes operate family farms and nearly two-thirds represent small to mid-size farms as defined by USDA.
“The delegates demonstrated their readiness to seize the opportunities and take on the challenges facing agriculture,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It is crucial that Congress pass a new farm bill and address the labor shortage in 2024. The policy set forth by Farm Bureaus in all 50 states and Puerto Rico will guide AFBF in its efforts through the process. We look forward to making our members’ unified voice heard as they work to ensure a strong food supply for America’s families.”
Montana Farm Bureau President Cyndi Johnson, Vice President Gary Heibertshausen, and District 9 Director Karl Christians represented MFBF on the delegate floor. Two policies approved during the MFBF Convention advanced to the national delegate session, one requiring extensive labeling on lab-grown meat and one opposing the establishment of natural asset companies.
“Although there is already a lot of policy on labeling lab-grown protein, our resolution calls for every ingredient to be listed on the package, giving consumers full knowledge so it can be recognized as fake meat,” Johnson said. “The other resolution to oppose the establishment of natural assets companies was in response to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rule that would have established natural asset companies. We are grateful to the Lewis & Clark County Farm Bureau for bringing that concern to us from their agricultural community.”
The delegates recognized the challenges of maintaining a strong agriculture workforce, delegates voted to stabilize wage rates for guest workers and revise H-2A and H-2B programs to better meet the needs of America’s farms.
MFBF Senior Director of Governmental Affairs Nicole Rolf explained that western states like Montana need a new labor system in place that would establish a system for year-round workers.
“Many of our farms and ranchers are diversified so we don’t just have one season that needs workers,” said Rolf. “The H-2A program, although helpful when needing seasonal employees and useful in many situations, does not help someone with a diversified farm or ranch. Nationwide, farmers and ranchers need to come together and figure out what is most helpful in regards to labor for running our farms and ranches.”
Other new policy voted on during the American Farm Bureau business meeting included policy to address the growth of artificial intelligence in agriculture. AI has the potential to enhance farming practices and conserve resources, but privacy rights must be respected.
Delegates reaffirmed their support for increasing reference prices in the farm bill and maintaining a strong crop insurance program, including an expansion of eligibility to ensure more commodities are covered.
On foreign investment, delegates added policy in support of additional funding to improve data collection on the foreign ownership of agricultural land. Delegates also voted to support the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. reviewing foreign investments in U.S. agribusinesses, natural resources, and real estate.
On trade, delegates added policy to recommend Congress investigate fertilizer supply chain outages and tariffs placed on imports.
“It was truly an honor to represent Montana Farm Bureau on the delegate floor at the 105th Annual AFBF Convention,” said Johnson. “The issues are amazingly diverse and the delegate perspectives on those issues are unique to their representative areas of the country. It is always a learning but humbling experience and I was thrilled to see our Montana resolutions become national policy.”
The AFBF Convention ran January 19-24 in Salt Lake City.