ATLANTA, January 11, 2022 - Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack assured farmers and ranchers attending the 103rd American Farm Bureau Convention that the Department of Agriculture is committed to helping them find additional income streams by using climate-smart practices. Vilsack announced that the agency plans to invest $38 million in a new program aimed at increasing cover crop acres and partnering with farmers for soil health.

"Listening to Farm Bureau and listening to those in agriculture, we know that it's important to establish a partnership in this effort to create climate-smart commodities," Secretary Vilsack said. "This is not top-down, this is a bottom-up effort. We know it needs to be voluntary, incentive-based and available to producers of all sizes, methods, locations and commodities."

Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) President Cyndi Johnson, along with the other state Farm Bureau presidents, met with Vilsack over issues facing the agricultural industry. "We talked to him about immigration, labor and the problems that farmers and ranchers are seeing on the southern border. In addition, we stressed the need for regional flexibility of Farm Service Agency programs," Johnson said.

During a recorded message to convention attendees, President Joe Biden expressed his appreciation for farmers and ranchers while highlighting the administration's priorities related to the Packers and Stockyards Act, infrastructure improvements and promoting fair competition in agricultural markets.

In addition to hearing keynote speakers at three general sessions, members attended a variety of workshops ranging from market outlooks to member recruitment and mental health.

MFBF District 9 Director Scott Stoner and his wife, Louise, attended several workshops including a workshop on sustainability. "The takeaway was that everyone has a definition of what is sustainable—the important part is finding your definition and communicating to consumers how you are sustainable on your farm or ranch."

Retaining members is paramount to having a successful organization, and Scott shared what he learned as member engagement. "We have members who are involved in Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher program, but once they age out, we lose them as active members," Stoner noted. "Don't be pushy to get too involved again, because many times they're juggling families and other obligations. Keep them in the loop by hosting an event they can attend or keep them engaged enough that when they're ready to dive in again, they'll remember us."

Members enjoyed an evening at the College Football Hall of Fame where they could network, peruse the interactive displays, hold a state Farm Bureau president's football throwing challenge, and watch the College Football National Championship. The convention continues on January 11 with the AFBF Voting Delegates Session.