Educational American Farm Bureau 95th Annual Convention
Thirty Montana Farm Bureau members who attended the American Farm Bureau 95th Annual Convention Jan 11-14 in San Antonio received plenty of education through workshops and speakers. Workshops in different tracks were offered that included “Building Better Businesses, Advocates, Leaders, Memories and Technology.” Workshop content varied between “Ensuring Our Access to Biotechnology” and “Livestock Situation and Outlook” to “Creative Leadership” and “How Your Customers Have Changed.”
“The crop and livestock workshop presented by Dr. Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist and professor of agribusiness at Oklahoma State University, was certainly worthwhile,” said Montana Farm Bureau President Bob Hanson, a cattle producer from White Sulphur Springs. “Dr. Peel indicated that livestock markets are looking strong for 2014 and beyond. He indicated that with cattle numbers at record lows since the 1950s, wise farmers and ranchers need to focus on expanding herds and responding to current markets. He believes export markets will continue to be a strong outlet for farmers and ranchers this year.”
MFBF Vice President Bruce Wright, a farmer from Bozeman, said he especially enjoyed a seminar presented by Chip Bell on Innovative Service. “He talked about thinking outside the box and how certain successful companies have gone above and beyond the norm to increase customer loyalty. For instance, Virgin Airlines will send a car to drive you to the airport and handle your luggage. Netflix, Zappos and Cabela’s were other examples of businesses that perpetually look for ways to make their customers’ experiences unique.”
Wright said another interesting workshop featured a panel of Farm Bureau presidents who shared their insight on the highs and lows of agriculture. “There were many problems in the 1980s with inflation and they offered advice on how plan ahead to avoid the pitfalls of cyclic low commodity prices,” he said.
Jim Schubert from Huntley thought the crop outlook workshop was informative, although unfortunately the outlook is not as good for crop producers as for livestock producers. Matthew Roberts, an associate professor at Ohio State University’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics said the past six years have been excellent for crop producers, but he expects the next six could be grim.
“Dr. Roberts indicated that a strong demand from China and the ethanol industry altered corn and soybean production globally during agriculture’s recent boom period for row crops, and that is slowing down. He advised large, aggressive and young growers to prepare for a bumpy ride by putting cash in the bank.”
This was the first AFBF convention for Breahna Patten from Broadus, who was impressed with all the activities. “I was really fascinated with the workshop on international trade. They had Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, head of the delegation of the European Union to the United States, who is involved in negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He was hopeful barriers that existed in the past will be overcome in the coming years,” Patten said. Rowena Hume, trade counselor for the New Zealand Embassy spoke on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the workshop. “She said improving trade potential in the Trans-Pacific region will greatly help American agricultural exports, which have decreased by 40 percent in recent years and would increase U.S. total exports by $600 billion or 3 million jobs.”
Members had the opportunity to hear from General Stan McChrystal, former commander of the U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, who addressed the need for adaptability in leadership; Alan Robertson, the “beardless brother” of Duck Dynasty talked about creativity and strong families, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farmers and ranchers to let their Congressmen as well as the general public, know how important it is to pass a farm bill. F
–Montana Farm Bureau