For the first time in 16 years, the American Farm Bureau Federation will elect a new president. Longtime AFBF President Bob Stallman is stepping down, opening the door for another to take his spot.
Here's a preview of the four candidates vying for the job.
Candidate Zippy Duvall has deep roots in Georgia’s agricultural industry. He's a lifelong dairy farmer and now maintains a beef herd and broiler operation.
He first became active with Farm Bureau during the ‘70s after his father encouraged him to get involved. “He encouraged me to manage time with my farm, but also to get out of the fence-rows and make a difference,” said Duvall.
Duvall has been president of the Georgia Farm Bureau since 2006, holding positions at the state and national level.
He has a big focus on helping young farmers. “We worry about how we bring our young people back to the farm and how we transfer those farmers to the next generation,” said Duvall.
He also concentrates on farm policy.
“As I travel the country, I hear about regulations and Waters of the United States, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act and what that does,” he said.
Candidate Kevin Rogers has ties to the Southwest. He’s a fourth-generation farmer from Arizona, where you produces cotton, alfalfa, wheat, barley and corn with his relatives in the state.
“It’s nice the family is involved in agriculture still together,” said Rogers.
Rogers too is a long-time member of his state's Farm Bureau, serving as president of the Arizona Farm Bureau for more than a decade.
He hopes to continue the conversation about agriculture at the national level as AFBF's next president.
“There’s always someone out there to go educate, so education is a big part of it (and being willing) to sit down with people you may disagree with on issues: leadership, animal rights issues, leaning on those issues or regulations with the EPA,” said Rogers.
Barry Bushue’s background stems from the Pacific Northwest. He operates on a century-old farm just east of Portland, Ore., and sells variety crops from flowers to vegetables to berries to the public and hosts events for the community.
“Oregon is very proud of its diverse agriculture. We raise over 230 commodities,” said Bushue."Oregon exports about 80 percent of its ag crops to other states or internationally."
He’s been president of the Oregon Farm Bureau since 1999 and vice president of the American Farm Bureau since 2008, but has held roles in both the state and national level for much longer.
He was also appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to serve on a biotech advisory committee. “GE technology is one of many tools," said Bushue.
Candidate Don Villwock is an advocate for agriculture in the Hoosier state. He farms in Southwest Indiana producing white corn, seed soybeans, wheat, popcorn and alfalfa.
“Agriculture is the largest industry in Indiana. We are very proud of that,” said Villwock. He's held almost every position that Indiana Farm Bureau offers, including county president, district director, vice president and state president, leading the Indiana Farm Bureau from 2002 to 2016.
He believes it’s important to energize the entire industry. “We really need an active membership to feel empowered to feel educated and feeling comfortable stepping forward with the issues that impact them,” said Villwock.
Villwock believes his experience in farm policy and his diversified crop background makes him a good fit for AFBF's president job. “I think I have a good understanding of the diversity of this country, of our farmers and ranchers and the commodities that they produce and challenges they face. I think we have a strong story to tell and one we can be very proud of,” said Villwock.
As Stallman steps away, one of these four men will soon move to the national level, with the chance to address farm policy and other issues facing American agriculture.
The election happens Tuesday in Florida at the AFBF meeting, where the organization will also set its national policy agenda for 2016.
Watch the U.S. Farm Report story about the candidates here:
Which of these four candidates would you choose? What should be the top three priorities for AFBF's new president? Let us know in the comments.