Farm and Ranch Leaders Address Critical Issues, Elect New Leaders at 2023 Utah Farm Bureau Convention
The Utah Farm Bureau Federation (UFBF) held its 107th annual convention last month at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah. The convention’s theme – Innovate. Advocate. Create. – spoke to how Utah Farm Bureau unites farmers and ranchers in Utah to advocate for the industry and innovate solutions for issues facing agriculture, such as extreme drought & water management in the state, rising input costs, labor shortages, mental health challenges, and more.
During the opening delegate session, county delegates met to hear from candidates for the organization’s president, UFBF Board of Directors, and members of its three statewide committees.
Thursday morning began by hearing from six candidates for the office of president, including Jared Buhler (Millard County), Dustin Cox (Kane County), Wade Eliason (Sanpete County), Tracy Hatch (Rich County), ValJay Rigby (Cache County), and Tyson Roberts (Davis County). After five rounds of voting, the delegates selected ValJay Rigby, a 5th generation alfalfa, corn, and small grains farmer from Cache County as the organization’s 19th president.
“I am humbled at the opportunity to serve this great organization and our industry. I look forward to representing our members to keep agriculture and the Farm Bureau strong. It’s a significant responsibility given the challenging nature of our industry, but I know that I and our other Farm Bureau leaders are up to the task,” Rigby said. “Farm Bureau is strong in advocating for agriculture everywhere because it is a true grassroots organization. We advocate not simply what a board wants, but more importantly, what is best for farmers and ranchers across the state.”
Others elected to the State Board of Directors included Morgan County sheep rancher Logan Wilde (District 2), Wasatch County dairy farmer & cheesemaker Russ Kohler (District 4), and re-elected Piute County cattle rancher Trevor Barnson. Cache County dairy farmer Brady Spackman was also elected to a term on the board of directors, as the new Young Farmer & Rancher Committee Chair.
Other committee elections information can be found HERE.
Before the first general session, convention attendees gathered for the Miracle of Agriculture Foundation luncheon & live auction, where the State Women’s Leadership Committee recognized Marcia & Jayla Hanberg with its ‘Women in Agriculture Award’. Marcia and her daughter-in-law Jayla put a lot of pride into being ambassadors for agriculture and have organized parade floats, helped with Uintah County Farm Field Days, promoted Ag in the Classroom, and been involved with social events to help other young farming families stay involved in their agriculture.
The general session on Thursday started with CEO Spencer Gibbons talking about the current activities of the Utah Farm Bureau, and then RJ Layher, a policy director for the American Farm Bureau, updating members on the legislative updates from Washington, D.C.
Attendees then heard an inspiring presentation from agriculture advocate Amanda Radke from South Dakota. In addition to ranching with her husband and family, Radke is an advocate for food security as national security, and talked about how people came to realize this more during the recent pandemic. She used this curiosity about food supply to advocate for local agriculture with people she met, and even others online through social media that lived across the country.
Radke is also a children’s book author and talked about using that platform to advocate for agriculture to families.
After an ice cream fundraiser from the Young Farmers & Ranchers committee to support Thomas Behling of Emery County who is recovering from a horse riding accident, the Discussion Meet Final Four was held. Laura Holmgren of Box Elder County ended up winning the Discussion Meet and took home an ATV, courtesy of IFA.
Brady & Amanda Spackman of Cache County were recognized earlier with the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award, courtesy of Western AgCredit and Karl Malone Plaza Cycle. Members later gathered for a celebration of a milestone, with the Utah Farm Bureau reaching the 35,000-member plateau for an all-time membership high.
The delegate session resumed Friday morning, with the delegate body discussing and voting on policies for positions on water, wildlife, public land management, and more. These policies are included in the current Utah Farm Bureau policy book, and will be used to advocate for positions during the upcoming legislative session and throughout the year in every county in Utah.
The 2nd general session took place, with remarks from Utah Farm Bureau Vice President Wade Eliason on the value of the Farm Bureau in advocating for farmers and ranchers, and the importance of individual members stepping up and giving of their time.
Miles Coleman from the University of Virginia gave an update on election trends from around the country and how that can help the action taking place in Washington, and Mark Gibbons, State Director for the Farm Service Agency in Utah talked about how farmers and ranchers need to document losses related to drought and other issues so they can be properly compensated. The general session ended with the awarding of the Leopold Conservation Award, which went to the Bennion Ranch of Vernon, Utah. Ranchers Alan and Elizabeth Mitchell receive $10,000 and a crystal award for being selected.
Friday’s action resumed after lunch with a series of breakouts, with presentations focusing on mental health, farm succession planning, public land management, protection from animal rights activists, consumer trends, water technology, agritourism, and various leadership development topics.
The convention concluded with the Farm Bureau Gala banquet Friday evening, which included recognizing the retiring board members – Jim Wayment, Wayne Jarrett, and Riggin Holmgren – along presentation of several awards. Holly Hall and her family accepted the Distinguished Service Award posthumously for Garrick Hall, a former YF&R Chair and Farm Bureau staffer who recently passed away.
Farm Bureau Financial Services recognized several agents for their stellar work in securing Farm Bureau members, including three agents of the year – Cathy Bowden of Davis County, Jordan Spicer of Davis County, and Mike Nielsen of Duchesne County. Other insurance agents recognized for their great work included Carson Hunt (Washington County), Mike Poulsen (Cache County), Brandon Jensen (Cache County), Gordon Knudsen (Box Elder County), Kristi Smith (Salt Lake County), Ethan Clinger (Utah County), Bruce Jones (Cache County), Tate Secrist (Weber County), Jaisha Cook (Utah County), Mike Nunley (Tooele County), Shawn Nielsen (Cache County), Richard Hackwell (Carbon County), Tyler Jeffs (Emery County), Steve Miller (Iron County), Zach Anderson (Wasatch County), and Andy Losee (Iron County).
Ross and Kelsey Summers of Box Elder County were presented with the YF&R Achievement Award, courtesy of Cache Valley Bank and Stotz Equipment. Former Congressman Chris Stewart was presented with the Friend of Agriculture award. His former staffer, and now Congresswoman, Celeste Maloy introduced Stewart, who spoke to the gala about lessons he learned working on a farm growing up, as well as from his military service, and how that helped him in Congress.
The ending of the convention comes just as families around the country gather for the Thanksgiving holiday and an appropriate display of gratitude for the harvest many attending participated in. With the policy book wrapped up, what remains is the work to implement Farm Bureau policy and start the process again in the spring. For those interested in becoming more involved in Utah Farm Bureau leadership, please reach out to your County Farm Bureau president or regional manager.
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