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This one's for you, Montana

If you're just joining us, welcome! For the past three days, we've been interviewing the four men who will be in the running to serve as the 12th American Farm Bureau Federation president at national convention this weekend. President Bob Stallman has serve our organization for 16 years and will retire from that position this weekend. It's an exciting time to get to know the men who will work to lead our organization into the future!

We had to ask at least one question just for fun! Read on as the candidates tell us what comes to mind when they think of farmers, ranchers and agriculture in Montana.

Zippy Duvall, Georgia Farm Bureau

When I think of farmers and ranchers in the Big Sky State, I see an extension of my own family and neighbors. Of the $2.4 billion agriculture contributes to Montana’s economy each year including wheat, cherries, sugar beets, and sunflowers, much of that is livestock including beef and dairy cows like my own farm.

But aside from agriculture production, I see families that are experiencing the same tribulations as farmers across the nation. I see the uncertainty that comes with a fluctuating tax and trade policies. I see the frustration of burdensome regulation that restricts how we use our land and the imposition of high permit fees to do so. And I see a struggle to protect our land and practices as an increasing percentage of the population moves to urban areas.

We the farmer are united in these obstacles, and we have a strong and unified front as we advocate for policies that will allow us to be profitable and cultivate a favorable environment for agriculture that we can pass on to our kids.

Kevin Rogers, Arizona Farm Bureau

When I hear Montana, I immediately think of the cattle, wheat and sugar beets that I have seen on my trips through your massive state. The public/private land is much like we have in Arizona. I know the farmers and ranchers of Montana are hard working men and women who have a God given talent to care for the land and wildlife that your state is known for.

The people of Montana are much like others of our industry. You are the building blocks of your communities because just like you don't wait for someone else to plant the seed or feed the livestock, you have stepped up to keep the lights on in your communities. You are hard working farm families taking up multiple roles to keep your communities alive. You are not only business owners, but caretakers, teachers, deacons, school board members and city council members that are the fabric of this nation. You also deal with issues that affect your very way of life. From bison to sage grouse, the work of the Montana members is ongoing and we will work together to fight for positive solutions.

Don Villwock, Indiana Farm Bureau

Big and diverse are two words that come to mind very quickly. You are obviously big in geographic size but also are a major producer of cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, rye, oats, sugar beets, and potatoes to name a few.

The diversity of crops and livestock along with varying farm and ranch size makes Montana a special agricultural state. Your interface with tourist and the non-agriculture sector brings both cultural and political challenges along with some agri-marketing opportunities.

Your vast natural resources and beautiful landscape attracts others from the outside who think they know more about managing your state than what the natives do, which presents a unique challenge that few states have to deal with in today’s world.

I would also say the word PROUD comes to mind. Every Montana farmer or rancher I’ve known is a hardworking and honest free spirted individual who is proud of their profession and their state. One of our landlords lives in Montana and as a Midwesterner I hear more about your state than most in our region. Your state FB president Bob Hanson is a great ambassador for your state’s agriculture and he is able to paint vivid pictures of many of the challenges you face along with sharing stories of the beautiful landscapes and tenacity of your farmers and ranchers.

Barry Bushue, Oregon Farm Bureau

I have had the pleasure of visiting Montana on several occasions. Some of those visits were for family vacations and some were related to Farm Bureau. It is a very large and beautiful state with diverse agriculture and a strong and effective Farm Bureau. Big Sky Country is an appropriate title and description of the mountains and expanse of the country side. I think of cattle and livestock production, abundant wildlife, beautiful scenery and deep blue lakes and rivers.

If you’re just joining us, catch up on earlier interviews here, here and here, and sign up to receive our blog by email! Watch for tomorrow’s post and the conclusion of our interviews with the AFBF Presidential candidates as we head to sunny Orlando for #AFBF16.