Wyoming delegates participate in AFBF delegate session to set organization policies
New Orleans, La. – During the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention held mid-January in New Orleans, La., AFBF voting delegates adopted policies to guide the organization’s work on key topics such as farm bill implementation, cell-cultured food products, trade, rural broadband access and rural mental health programs.
Being a part of American Farm Bureau’s Centennial year had special meaning for Farm Bureau members.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Vice President Cole Coxbill noted, “I was on the delegate floor thinking about 1919 when Farm Bureau began. I thought about what an honor it is to sit on the delegate floor and make the policy of an organization that is 100 years old.”
He continued, “Seeing the old photos they showed in a video really made me realize how many years this organization has existed. I realized how proud I am of being in an organization with grassroots policy development; an individual member can bring a concern to his county Farm Bureau and that resolution can move on to the state and them be on the delegate floor at the national convention.”
Wyoming Farm Bureau had several policies that made it to the delegate floor, including one submitted by Coxbill’s County Farm Bureau regarding trucking Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Devices.
Other policies adopted by the delegate body included policies on government shutdowns, trade, cell-based food, rural broadband and mental health.
Delegates urged the administration and Congress to work together to end the government shutdown as soon as possible. The current shutdown means farmers and ranchers are being delayed in securing loans and crop insurance, as well as disaster and trade assistance. The impasse has also delayed implementation of important provisions of the farm bill.
Regarding trade, delegates voted to favor negotiations to resolve trade disputes, rather than the use of tariffs or withdrawal from agreements.
They also voted to support the United States’ entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Delegates adopted a comprehensive policy to support innovation in cell-based food products, while ensuring a level playing field for traditional protein. Delegates affirmed USDA is best equipped to be the primary regulator of new cell-based products as it encouraged USDA to utilize the Food and Drug Administration’s expertise in food safety.
The policy also calls for complete and accurate product labels to ensure that consumers have all the pertinent information they need.
Delegates supported improved broadband coverage maps through better data and third-party provider verification. AFBF will work with the Federal Communications Commission to address map inaccuracies.
Increased funding for programs and facilities for the treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues was also supported by AFBF’s members.
Delegates also voted to support funding for the Farm and Ranch Assistance Network, which was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
AFBF will urge appropriations committees to fund this program, which is critical to address the mental health issues faced by many farmers, ranchers and other rural Americans.
The numerous workshops during AFBF’s convention provided food for thought for its members.
One workshop Coxbill attended was research conducted by Microsoft on how farmers could use unused television channels – called white space – to make their entire farm wi-fi capable for free.
“He explained that the white space is free, and it’s all over rural America,” said Coxbill. “He showed us one slide that explained this technology and told us with a laugh that it represented five years of his PhD.”
The research was supported using this unused technology through the Gates Foundation, and Coxbill commented, “Apparently Bill Gates is a strong supporter of this program.”
“He told us a chip scans the TV channels and picks up what channels are not being used. The chip can use those channels on the free frequencies,” Coxbill explained. “If a TV station started using an unused channel, the chip would just switch to a new, unused station. It’s a very fast way to get the data and the infrastructure is already in place. This could make your entire farm wi-fi capable for free.”
Coxbill continued that the chip can used soil probes to get nutrient data back to a computer in real time to tell farmers what nutrients and water their crops need. It could quickly transmit from a collar on a cow which animal is not feeling well.
The diversified rancher said, despite the poor ag economy, people were upbeat and positive.
“I encourage people to come to the American Farm Bureau Convention, which is next January in Austin, Texas. It’s a great experience, and there is so much to learn,” said Coxbill. “I encourage everyone who is involved in agriculture, and that includes everyone who likes eating, to become a Farm Bureau member and to support agriculture.”
Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.