Tag Archives: American Farm Bureau

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2019 – New data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows that rural communities have the highest death rates nationwide from opioid prescriptions, more than three times the national average.


A previously unreleased database from DEA tracking prescription painkillers showed that the highest per-capita opioid death rates from 2006 to 2012 were in rural communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, with more than three times the national average of 4.6 deaths per 100,000 residents. Thirteen of those counties had an opioid death rate more than eight times the national rate.


Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau, said, “We have seen firsthand the destructive force of opioids in rural communities, and our research shows that three out of four farmers have been impacted. That’s why we stepped up to address this crisis. We stand with the families and communities that have been affected, and we continue the fight against opioid addiction in our partnership with National Farmers Union through our Farm Town Strong campaign. If someone you know is struggling, it’s important for them to know that there is hope.”


Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union, said, “The new data released by DEA highlights what we already know about the impact of opioids on farm country: Rural areas are being disproportionately impacted by opioid addiction. This is an issue we’ve been all too aware of for too long, and we have mobilized resources and partnerships over the past two years to help address this crisis. We are Farm Town Strong, and we will continue to work together to address the serious issues identified in today’s news.”  


The American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union, in conjunction with USDA Rural Development, launched the Farm Town Strong campaign in January 2018 to provide information and resources to help those struggling with opioid addiction. For more information, and to find help, please visit farmtownstrong.org.

I recently attended the FUSION Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which brought together more than 1,200 Farm Bureau volunteer leaders from across the country from Promotion & Education, Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers & Ranchers programs.

What a remarkable trip to see fellow agriculturalists come together in one place and tell their stories about how and why they believe ag is a mainstay in America!

As an ag broadcaster and member of the Montana Farm Bureau and its P&E Committee, it was a pleasure to visit with other members from around the country who deal with concerns and issues that affect all aspects of agriculture production.

With my background of reporting on farming and ranching concerns our ag folks deal with on a regular basis, I found the message from Redmond Ramos inspiring.

What an amazing outlook on life Redmond presented! His positive, “second chance on life” message should be an inspiration to us all. Redmond was injured serving our country, eventually losing his leg. As a corpsman in the United States Marines Corps, he was defending and protecting you and me, so we could celebrate the freedoms many take for granted.

Redmond brought a message of hope that we all should hear loud and clear. Stop whining, stop feeling sorry for yourself and go out and get it done. For example, in the Amazing Race he was asked to row a boat with his feet, although he only has one. He didn’t feel handicapped or pity for himself. Instead, he described the need to ask others for help and be willing to accept what you can and can’t control. In the world of ag, we need to do that as well. Seek help, accept what you can control and what you cannot, but always continue to recognize your worth in ag production. We can all take away a valuable lesson and an inspirational message to share.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend a conference where all attendees gained knowledge and inspiration to successfully continue in the world of agriculture.

The people of Farm Bureau have always made it an organization of distinction. Widely seen as a popular movement to advocate for agriculture and rural families when it was formed, the way we communicate today has meant a return to those roots, or perhaps more accurately, grassroots.

Today, public policy issues running the gamut from transportation and labor to trade and regulations are won or lost in our state and national capitals based on the personal stories shared by individual farmers and ranchers. Facts are still the foundation, but Farm Bureau’s farmers and ranchers communicating how issues are felt at the farm gate is paramount. And that, in a nutshell, is Farm Bureau’s value proposition.

The grassroots structure of Farm Bureau, from the American Farm Bureau Federation through the state and county organizations, is unmatched in the world of advocacy for agriculture. Farm Bureau is arguably the most effective organization of farmers and ranch families in the world, and it all goes back to the commitment of individual grassroots members and leaders.

I have seen this in varying degrees over the last 34 years as a member of the Farm Bureau staff. That time included a lot of farm tours, committee meetings and annual conventions. But what sticks out the most, and always will, is the personal stories of how issues affect Farm Bureau families at the farm and ranch level – whether it was a sweet corn grower in Rhode Island, a nursery producer in California or a wheat farmer in Kansas.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of writing countless speeches, columns and news releases. I have logged years of service with some of the most capable professional staff members in agriculture at the county, state and national levels of Farm Bureau. During that time, the organization has grown in terms of the application of modern communications strategy. As a result, the media profile of AFBF has been greatly elevated. That is more a testament to the AFBF Communications Team than it is to me. One constant throughout that time, however, has been the fact that Farm Bureau is fueled by grassroots passion that radiates from the land, the community and the balance sheet.

Unlike many organizations that try to wrap so-called grassroots campaigns around a hollow façade, with Farm Bureau there is never any doubt about whether the intent of grassroots Farm Bureau policy is being represented. Like all organizations, or for that matter any aspect of society these days, Farm Bureau has its share of critics. Due to its dominant profile in the world of agricultural policy advocacy, Farm Bureau is a big target for those who disagree, whether for reasons of ideology or envy. No organization is perfect, but when it comes to representing the will of its members in the public policy arena, Farm Bureau is unsurpassed and its commitment to members is unrivaled.

One thing that sets Farm Bureau as an organization apart from nearly all others is that if you are a farmer or rancher and you do not agree with a policy, you can work to change it. That does not mean you will automatically succeed, but Farm Bureau’s policy-setting process can be efficacious for anyone with an idea to make agriculture and rural America better and the ability to convince others to follow. And that is why Farm Bureau invests in its members, making sure they have the leadership and communication skills to answer the bell no matter when it rings.

As I sign off my duty as executive director of communications for AFBF, and a career that has encompassed a full one-third of AFBF’s 100 years of existence, I stand confident in the organization’s ability to endure through both good times and bad, just as it has since 1919. Even during the very serious and unprecedented challenges facing farmers and ranchers in 2019, the organization remains effective, responsive and the respected Voice of Agriculture when it comes to public policy advocacy.

While I look forward to a new professional opportunity with the United Soybean Board, I will fondly recall all the advances to agriculture Farm Bureau has helped fuel during my tenure. And for that reason, I look forward to many more years of Farm Bureau involvement, as a member who will continue to be #FarmBureauProud. It’s been my honor to serve.