A delegation of 38 Montana Farm Bureau members had the opportunity to experience the American Farm Bureau Convention which included seeing President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The convention, which ran January 17-22 on Austin, featured tours and a variety of meetings and workshops. 

This was only the second time Carla Lawrence has been to the convention, and the first time to attend as Montana Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee Chair. As chair, she attended the AFBF WLC Business Meeting.

“A defining moment was the announcement that the WLC, which had asked states to raise $100,000 for Ronald McDonald House charities in 2019, more than exceeded that amount, raising $237,000,” Lawrence noted. The meeting included an announcement of the AFBF WLC Fly-In which will take place in March in Washington D.C. along with two WLC Communications Boot Camps held in February and July.

“As part of the Foundation Flapjack Fundraiser, WLC members received the newest American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Book of the Year, ‘Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car’ written by Peggy Thomas. It’s an educational, fun book with wonderful illustrations,” said the Carbon-Stillwater-County Farm Bureau member. “I’m looking forward to sharing what I learned at the WLC meeting and at the convention with our WLC back home.”

Jules and Bonnie Marchesseault, who ranch in Dillon, have been to 15 national conventions. “People come from all facets of agriculture, and it’s interesting to visit with them and learn what they do and their concerns about their farms and ranches,” said Jules. “I found the general feeling of this convention to be very optimistic. We were impressed by all of the young people attending this year. Of course, having the President of the United States come for three years in a row is truly impressive.”

In addition to its notable speakers, the event offered workshop tracks including Public Policy & Advocacy, Member Engagement, Consumer Engagement, Business & Rural Development and Technology.

“We attended a workshop on gene editing that was certainly interesting, as the presenters not only explained the basic science behind the process, but provided helpful information regarding consumer perceptions. The presenters noted that when advocating about gene editing, it’s essential to highlight the health benefits of that product to the consumer,” said Dennis Descheemaeker, a Lewistown rancher. “It’s also important to point out this technology allows the farmer to use less crop protectants which is good for the environment.”

Members had the opportunity to investigate Texas agriculture as well as the Lone Star State’s history. Tours included stops at the farms that grew olives, pecans, honey and produce as well as a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library and Texas Military Forces WWII Museum. With the boom in agricultural products being used for spirits, one tour at Garrison Brothers Distillery in Texas Hill Country was focused of how the family-run business is the first Texas Distillery to produced bourbon. For their bourbon, they use 71 percent Texas white corn and wheat as well as barley.

“They currently buy their barley from out of state, but are working to source it locally from farmers who have started growing barley indoors—which we learned is the only way to grow it in hot Texas weather,” said Conrad wheat farmer Ken Johnson. “It was interesting seeing a different part of Texas agriculture.”