Ag leadership is important these days as local and global forces impact farmers across the country. For 16 years Bob Stallman, a Texas farmer, has been the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, guiding the big organization through some very turbulent times. Earlier this year he announced his retirement. That news created a situation that hasn’t happened in more than 30 years for the organization: a run for the office by more than one candidate.
Stallman, who replaced long-time Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner, has brought his own brand of leadership to the organization, with a steady hand on the tiller and a focus on legislative and global factors that influence farming. His leadership has been important during an especially contentious time in agriculture, when it has become increasingly difficult to get legislation through Congress, even to pass a Farm Bill, and regulatory pressures have been on the rise.
As he leaves office, four candidates have stepped up to present their case to lead the organization going forward. Each brings his own skillsets and experience to a position that requires a worldly statesman’s approach to lawmakers, and regulators, across the country. Throughout the Penton Agriculture family of brands, writers have profiled each of these prospective leaders. Check out the links below, listed in alphabetical order from the states they represent today.
First up is Kevin Rogers, an Arizona farmer, and long-time member of the Arizona Farm Bureau. His father is a past president. Rogers has also served on the American Farm Bureau Federation Board for six years, three on the executive committee. He has also served on the national organization’s trade committee where he discussed trade issues with world farm leaders.
He was recently profiled in Western Farm Press, where he told Editor Cary Blake: “I am running for AFBF president since I believe the American Farm Bureau needs a leader with the experience in a diversity of issues facing American agriculture.” Learn more about Kevin Rogers from Blake's profile.
Also running for the position is Zippy Duvall, president, Georgia Farm Bureau. Duvall threw his hat into the ring in July, not long after Stallman announced his retirement. He sat down with Brad Haire, Southeast Farm Press, soon after he was endorsed for the AFBF position by Sunbelt Ag Expo’s Executive Director Chip Blalock.
Duvall says he wants to get out and listen to Farm Bureau members to see what they want their organization to focus on and how they want to move forward. He told Haire: “Our job is to speak for farmers when they can’t be at the tables where decisions are made that impact their lives and business.” Learn more about Zippy Duvall in Haire’s profile.
Indiana farmer and long-time Indiana Farm Bureau leader Don Villwock is in the running for the AFBF post, too. He was recently profiled in Indiana Prairie Farmer by Tom Bechman where he discussed what he sees as important for the future of agriculture. Villwock had recently retired from the Indiana Farm Bureau when Stallman made his announcement. That led Villwock to decide to seek the AFBF leadership position.
He tells Bechman that he has a two-year-old grandson and “if he wants to farm, I want him to have the chance.”
This is beyond just having opportunity on the family farm. Adds Villwock: “I want there still to be a role for young people in American agriculture. I believe I could make a difference helping maintain an environment which will be conducive for agriculture for years to come.” Learn more about Don Villwock from Bechman’s profile.
Out West, Barry Bushue, president, Oregon Farm Bureau has also thrown his hat into the ring, though it may be a long shot. In a profile by Robert Waggener for Western Farmer-Stockman, there’s one key fact: Only one candidate from the West — the late Allen Grant of California — has won the presidency since the AFBF began in 1919. Yet Bushue says it’s different today because the issues fronting farmers and ranchers today are much more broad-based than in years past.
He tells Waggener: “Each region certainly faces some specific challenges, but many of those challenges are crossing regional lines. For example, water issues impact all of us, whether you’re in Alaska or Alabama.” Bushue notes his ability to build consensus across party lines in Oregon — a traditionally liberal state — to make ag policy. Check out Waggener’s profile of Barry Bushue.
For AFBF members traveling to Orlando in January, the vote will be significant as members select who will lead them forward.