From Empire Farm & Dairy Magazine
New York state played host to a special national visitor in May.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
According to the American Farm Bureau, Duvall visited three dairy farms, a vineyard/winery, and even got to see the “rock” that commemorates the first Farm Bureau, established in 1911 in Broome County.
He also had a roundtable meeting with leaders of commodity groups in New York state.
At Hemdale Farms in Seneca Castle, Ontario County, Duvall saw a robotic milking operation and talked with farmer Dale Hemminger about labor challenges that he and other farmers face.
At the other dairy farm, Whittaker Family Farm in Whitney Point, Broome County, Duvall visited with Scott and Judi Whittaker and talked about regulatory concerns, such as federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements under the Clean Water Act that make farming more costly.
Labor issues also came up in the conversation with the Whittakers.
At Anthony Road Wine Co., in Penn Yan, Yates County, Duvall visited with owners John and Ann Martini and their daughter Sarah, business manager for the operation. John Martini also talked about labor challenges.
“Nearly every farmer I’ve talked with has said that they face tremendous challenges in getting enough farm workers and with the cost of government regulations,” Duvall said about his visits with New York farmers.
“You go to one farm and they say, ‘If you don’t fix immigration and ag labor, none of the other issues matter.’ You go to another farm, and they say, ‘If you don’t rein in regulations, none of the other issues are going to matter.’ So those are the top concerns I am hearing about as I talk with farmers in New York and around the country.”
Duvall also met with agriculture students and collegiate Farm Bureau members at Cornell University. The students were interested in talking about how to help consumers understand the benefits of today’s farming practices, such as genetic modification that helps farmers grow more food on less land with fewer pesticides.
Duvall also met with the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Kathryn Boor, who spoke about the importance of agricultural research and education.
Last, but not least, Duvall spent time with New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton and his family on their dairy farm in Elba, Genesee County, where he pitched in as the family worked to load spring hay into their silage bunkers.
Duvall was struck by the beauty of the rolling hills and farms of Upstate New York, and he was impressed by how innovative and industrious the region’s farmers are.
“I was reminded of how much farmers contribute to job creation and economic growth, and what a big role agricultural research plays in solving problems in farming, food manufacturing and even healthcare and beyond,” he said. “You cannot meet the farmers I’ve met without being impressed by their industriousness and commitment to what they do.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit with so many excellent farmers who want to do the right thing for consumers, the environment and, of course, their own farms and families,” Duvall added. “There is no replacement for seeing firsthand what they do and talking about the concerns that keep them awake at night.
Their potential to grow and create new businesses and new economic opportunities is truly amazing. As one farmer told me, ‘We just need a level playing field.’”
Elected to the top post at the nation’s largest general farm organization in January, Duvall aims to visit all 50 states in his first two-year term to learn more about agricultural issues in every state and region and ensure that the American Farm Bureau is speaking for all farmers and ranchers and working to unify farmers no matter where they farm, what they grow, or how they grow it.
“Some of the things we need to get done for agriculture, such as ag labor and immigration reform, will not be easy,” he said. “It will take all of agriculture working together to enact policies that allow farmers to meet their challenges and benefit from their opportunities.”
Duvall is a third-generation dairy farmer who has a 300-head beef cow herd while producing quality hay to supply his needs. He and his wife Bonnie also developed a poultry production operation, growing out over 750,000 broilers per year.
Duvall began his Farm Bureau journey in 1977 after his late father heard him complain about the price of milk and told him, “If you think the price of milk is not enough, or if you think the regulations are too tough, you’ve got to get outside your fencerows.”
Duvall has held numerous leadership roles in the organization at the county, state and national level. As Georgia Farm Bureau president, Duvall also served on the AFBF Board of Directors, including roles on the Trade Advisory Committee, International Trade Mission and Finance Committee.
In addition to his Farm Bureau leadership, Duvall has served 35 years in community and public service roles.