Celebrating its 104th annual convention, farmers and ranchers throughout the state gathered while socially-distanced at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo to talk about issues confronting agriculture in Utah.
Following rules from Governor Herbert regarding Covid-19, the reduced number of convention attendees wore masks and were further spaced-out than most traditional conferences, yet the important business of the meeting carried on.
Seemingly in line with the convention theme of ‘Breaking Barriers’, the Farm Bureau delegate body deliberated and came up with policy recommendations to address issues including CAFO zoning of animal agriculture, water transfer, predator control, public land grazing permits, and more.
The delegates also held elections to decide on leaders to guide the organization.
President Gibson greeted convention-goers with an encouraging message about how the current worldwide health pandemic has impacted American and Utah agriculture. Gibson praised the ability of farmers to adapt and do their best under trying circumstances.
Despite the year and its events which were upended in large measure, Farm Bureau members were reminded of their many achievements throughout the year. Presentations were made highlighting the organization’s legislative efforts in Washington, D.C. as well as the State legislature, but also on the important creation of the ‘Miracle of Agriculture Foundation’ and its Farmers Feeding Utah campaign. Farmers Feeding Utah has sought to create multiple wins by purchasing food from farmers & ranchers in Utah, and working with partners such as Utah State University’s Hunger Solutions Institute & Create Better Health to distribute this food to Utah families in need.
Also attending the conference was Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Duvall joined Utah Farm Bureau leaders during its policy delegate session, and also made remarks at the convention banquet.
A new edition to this year’s convention was the addition of a Foundation ‘Miracle Project’, in which attendees were able to assemble purchased food into packets, which were then provided to more than 400 families in Provo.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall (left) visits with Sara Harward and Kalei Robbins of Utah County during a Miracle of Agriculture Foundation 'Miracle Project' at the convention in Provo.
Several young farmers were awarded ATVs and opportunities to compete nationally at the virtual American Farm Bureau Convention. Millard County rancher Whitt Sorenson won the Discussion Meet, Casey & Kelli Snider of Cache County won the Excellence in Agriculture Award, and Scott & Krista Dalton of Piute County won the Achievement Award. These prizes were made possible through support from organizations including Cache Valley Bank, Western AgCredit, IFA, Stotz Equipment, and Garrett Honda.
Sherrie Tate, president of the Washington County Farm Bureau, was presented the 2020 Advocate for Agriculture Award by the Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee for her work in promoting agriculture in southern Utah. Sherrie and her family own Staheli Farms in Washington City.
Sherrie Tate receives her Advocate for Agriculture Award from Women's Leadership Committee Chair Dot Jensen at convention.
In a change from previous years, no breakout classes were held, instead, the general session included presentations on the ‘Miracle of Agriculture Foundation’, an update on the national agriculture implications of the recent election from American Farm Bureau’s Dr. John Newton, a new Farm Bureau venture to create value-added products for Utah’s ranchers, and an inspiring story of agriculture as America’s greatest sustainability story from Purdue University’s Allan Gray.
Concluding the convention, Farm Bureau members and guests were treated to a delicious banquet dinner and remarks from Utah Governor-elect Spencer Cox, who spoke virtually from his home in Fairview. David Brown of Salt Lake County was also presented the ‘Friend of Farm Bureau’ award for his important role in the creation of the Farmers Feeding Utah program. The convention also included the awarding of the 2020 Leopold Conservation Award to Colby & McKenzie Pace of the Half Circle Cross Ranch in Coalville.
Despite the challenging year, farmers and ranchers throughout Utah have risen to the challenge to achieve great things. More than ever, many throughout Utah have come to recognize the critical need for local agriculture, and opportunities have been created to connect those in agriculture with families throughout the state. A lot of work and difficult decisions remain to deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Farm Bureau leaders were committed to the cause as the year 2021 rolls in.