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Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, DC, was named the National Agri-Marketing Association's (NAMA) 2019 Ag Association Leader of the Year at the organization's annual conference in Kansas City, MO.

Duvall is a third-generation farmer from Green County, GA, located east of Atlanta. Early in his days of owning and operating the farm, he continued to run it as a dairy operation--as it was when his father was the primary operator.

About ten years ago, he sold his dairy herd and switched to poultry and beef cattle production. But Duvall still has dairying in his blood.

Growing up on the farm and taking on more of the day-to-day work and decisions, as a young man he would occasionally complain to his dad about markets, prices or government regulations. His dad gave him a piece of advice that has served him well. He said, "Son, if you want to change any of those things, you have to get outside your own fencerows."


Meaning, you can't just farm or ranch. You have to join your agricultural association such as Farm Bureau. You have to attend town hall meetings and speak up. You have to engage in the policy process by responding when your ag association asks you to write or call your elected officials. Since then, Duvall has joined, attended and engaged for more than 30 years as a Farm Bureau leader.

He started out as a county Farm Bureau leader and a member of the Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) committee. He was selected for the national YF&R Committee and elected Chairman, giving him a seat on the American Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

He went on to serve his local community as a county commissioner and, for nine years, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau. He was elected American Farm Bureau Federation President in 2016.

Duvall enjoys meeting young, beginning farmers and ranchers who are just starting out on their own journey of growth and leadership in farming and Farm Bureau. "Being active in your agricultural association opens doors," he tells them. "It's up to you to walk through those doors. And if you do, there's no limit to what you can accomplish for yourself, your family and your business."


County and state Farm Bureaus began forming in the early 20th century. The first county Farm Bureau, in Broome County, NY, was organized in 1913. It was preceded by an agricultural division or "bureau" of the local Chamber of Commerce, but the Broome County Farm Bureau gave farmer members direct responsibility and control over the organization.

Other counties across the nation quickly followed suit and formed their own Farm Bureaus, and the increasingly numerous county organizations eventually banded together to form state Farm Bureaus.

It is thought that the idea of a state Farm Bureau grew out of the practice of county Farm Bureau presidents attending conferences at state agricultural colleges, and county presidents realizing that their organizations had interests that could best be served by a state organization independent of those educational institutions. Missouri was the first to form, in 1915, a state federation of its county Farm Bureaus.

Delegates from state Farm Bureaus met in Chicago, IL, in November 1919 and formed the American Farm Bureau Federation. While there were differing ideas about what the purpose of the organization should be, one journalist wrote, "The important thing, of course, is that it was born at all. Never before have farmers from New Hampshire to Mississippi and California been able to meet for such a purpose and find any common ground at all on which to set their feet."

Farm Bureau was formed in a grassroots fashion--county to state to nationa--and that's how it still operates a century later. Policy proposals surface at the county level and move up if approved by state and national Farm Bureau delegates at their annual meetings.


Farm Bureau is a federation of the state Farm Bureaus.

Duvall reports, "We like to say that we have nearly 6 million members across the country, and 'Farm Bureau' does. But the American Farm Bureau Federation has 51 members: the 50 state Farm Bureaus and the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau.


Duvall reports AFBF's primary activities are:

* policy development;

* working with lawmakers and officials to implement AFBF policy (i.e., lobbying);

* communications to amplify the voice of farmers and ranchers in the media and online;

* a Farm Bureau Advocacy or grassroots advocacy program to issue calls to action for Farm Bureau members to contact government policymakers in support of AFBF policy;

* member benefits programs for state Farm Bureaus to enhance their membership value;

* the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture to grow public understanding of farming and ranching; and

* leadership development programs to equip Farm Bureau members with the skills they need to be effective advocates for agriculture.

The following are AFBF's current policy priorities:

* Building relationships with the new Congress and educating them about agriculture.

* Enacting agricultural labor reform that helps meet farmers' and ranchers' labor needs.

* Encouraging greater investment in rural and agricultural infrastructure, including broadband internet access and agricultural research, as well as roads, bridges, inland waterways and sea ports.

* Reforming the rulemaking process to ensure federal regulations are supported by science and created in a transparent manner, while identifying specific regulatory reform opportunities to help farmers and ranchers remain productive and competitive.

* Defending and expanding international trade opportunities for U.S. agriculture.


Over the long term, Duvall says, "We're very proud that the idea for the "Food for Peace" donation program came out of Farm Bureau policy back in the 1950s. America's farmers and ranchers were facing low prices due to large surpluses of commodities.

"Through Farm Bureau's grassroots policy development process, policy was developed to create a program to export those excess commodities to feed hungry nations. There's no telling how many lives have been saved, or wars prevented, because hungry people were fed.

Building onto that idea of feeding hungry people, 17 years ago AFBF launched its "Harvest for All" program to encourage members to donate food, money and time to help feed the needy in our own country.

Since then, Farm Bureau members have raised or donated millions of dollars, millions of pounds of food and thousands of volunteer hours. In 2018 alone, Farm Bureau members donated 32.4 million pounds of food, volunteered 22,500 hours and raised $362,000 to assist hungry Americans. Combined, the monetary and food donations equal 28 million meals.

Duvall continues, "In the nearer term, I am proud of our work to get a legal and workable Clean Water Rule under the Clean Water Act. Farm Bureau members spoke up loudly when the Obama Administration put out a Waters of the U.S. rule that, unfortunately, was deeply flawed.

"AFBF had called for clearer rules so that farmers and other landowners could easily tell what a federally regulated water body was, requiring federal permits to do certain farm practices, as opposed to which water bodies are regulated at the state and local levels. However, the Obama rule went too far.

"Farmers and ranchers want clean water as much as anyone else--after all, we cannot grow anything without it, and most farmers and ranchers feel they are part of a long line of their families' caretakers of the land and natural resources handed down to them and, they hope, waiting to be handed down to the next generation. Over the past year, we have supported the current Administration's efforts to rewrite the rule in a way that protects water but also provides clarity for landowners.

"And, of course," Duvall says, "we are proud of our work on the 2018 farm bill. Maintaining and improving risk management programs to help farmers survive the current, difficult farm economy is a big accomplishment."


Duvall says, "A challenge for any national association, and certainly an organization that works to represent the interests of all types of farmers and ranchers, is uniting behind the best policies for U.S. agriculture overall.

"Our voting delegates represent every state and region, and every farm product. They have vigorous debates about the policy recommendations that work their way up through our grassroots process.

"But once the policy is set, we unite behind that policy. It's not always easy, but it works, and it's what makes us strong.

Duvall continues, "As President of AFBF, I have worked to build greater unity across agricultural organizations. The same as the different states and regions are more effective when they work together, different ag groups can be stronger and get more done by finding areas of agreement and working together.


"One way that companies along the agricultural supply chain can get involved in Farm Bureau," Duvall says, "is just by talking with us. Our door and our ears are open, and we want to unite and work together for the benefit of all of agriculture.

"If agribusiness companies are spotting a trend on the horizon or an opportunity to make agriculture and food production more productive and profitable, we want to work with them on that.

Another way to be involved with Farm Bureau is by sponsoring its programs and events where members gather, including the organization's annual convention which next year is January 17-22, 2020, in Austin, TX.


"There's never been a more exciting time to be involved in agriculture, Duvall says. "I know that might surprise some people, with prices for several commodities currently very low. But farmers and ranchers have more technological innovation at their fingertips than ever.

"Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, and consumer tastes are more diverse than ever. And demand for what we grow and raise will rise as consumers in developing countries earn more money to buy the high-quality products we export.

Duvall continues, "There's also such a great variety of agricultural careers available, in addition to farming and ranching. There's agricultural research, which is so vital to our ability to increase our productivity or tackle pest, disease and weather challenges.

"There's the public policy arena; I'm so impressed by the "mindpower" we have on our team at AFBF, working for the nation's farmers and ranchers.

"And, of course, there's developing new food products and managing agricultural businesses. My son Vince, for example, is a large-animal veterinarian, and we certainly need more of those.

Duvall concludes, "Agriculture is more than food, of course, but food production is one thing that, I hope, we never offshore, becoming dependent on other countries. I believe that makes agriculture a reliable, growing field for young people who are looking for an exciting, meaningful and dependable career."

Personal information:

* Married for over 38 years to Bonnie McWhorter Duvall

* Four children:

* Vince Duvall, an executive offer in the Georgia Army National Guard and a combat veteran (Blackhawk pilot) of the war in Iraq.

* Cora Duvall Terry, stay at home mom

* Zellie Duvall, legislative assistant, Office of Congressman Rick Allen (GA-12)

* Zeb Duvall, farmer and veterinarian

Five grandchildren (the real hobby is spending time with them, and the cows, on the farm).

by the Agri Marketing Editors


Duvall's real name is Vincent, but his parents started calling him Zippy early on. When Zippy was little there was a character he liked on TV--Zippy the Chimp on the Howdy Doody show.

His parents had been calling him Zipper because he was born by Caesarian section. It became Zippy because of the chimp.

Caption: Zippy Duvall (l), President of the American Farm Bureau Federation with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (former governor of Georgia, Duvall's home State) and Mrs. Bonnie Duvall.

Caption: Duvall spent much of his first two years as AFBF President visiting farms and ranches, like this one in Tennessee, to learn more about agriculture's opportunities and challenges across the country. A dairyman at heart, Duvall checks the quality of feed.
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Publication:Agri Marketing
Date:May 1, 2019

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