July 15, 2024

The Zipline: Investing in the future of agriculture

Farm Bureau has long supported agricultural education’s critical role of creating opportunities for the next generation of agricultural professionals.

The investment and protection of the next generation to enter agriculture or keep their family farm running has long been a priority at Farm Bureau.

And encouragingly, the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2022 Census of Agriculture reveals a promising trend that the number of beginning farmers has surpassed over 1 million. That’s up 11% from 2017.

However, alongside this growth, the average age of farmers has continued to climb, reaching 58, highlighting the pressing need for initiatives and partnerships aimed at engaging and supporting young people in agriculture — it is crucial for the future of the agricultural sector.

At Farm Bureau, we believe that leadership development begins early. Young farmers and ranchers programs at the professional and collegiate level are just one example.

Through our partnerships with the National 4-H Council; the National FFA Organization; the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences; and Agriculture Future of America, we are not only strengthening agriculture for the future, but empowering our future agricultural leaders.

As I travel across the country, I am continually impressed by the leaders emerging from these organizations. They are trailblazers, paving the way for new frontiers and fostering the next generation of leadership today.

Our individual relationship with each of these organizations represents an investment in the future of agriculture.

Each one has its own unique approach and together we are cultivating a diverse group of leaders who will generate new ideas and pioneer innovative solutions to the present and future challenges facing our sector.

We partner with all four organizations through individual meetings, participating in mutual events, exchanging speakers, promoting our AFBF internship opportunities and cross-promoting any major initiatives and resources.

We also partner with each organization specific projects and initiatives. With 4-H, we sponsor an agriculture education experience at their National 4-H Congress, provide ag literacy materials to educators and tap into the expertise of their national staff and leadership to serve as judges for our competitive events.

Working with MANRRS, we developed our Farm Bureau Fellowship Program, supported by sponsorship of CoBank. These Farm Bureau fellows, undergraduate and graduate MANRRS members, receive a complimentary year of Farm Bureau membership and free registration for our 2024 YF&R Leadership Conference.

With FFA, we sponsor a leadership development event and booth at the National FFA Convention. We also collaborate year-round with National FFA staff to provide valuable D.C. experiences for FFA members, national FFA officers and alumni.

Finally, our newest partnership with AFA focuses on engagement with their flagship trainings and conferences. Farm Bureau provides speakers for the AFA Policy Institute and Leaders Conference and sponsors the AFA AllianceX alumni event and AFA Leaders Conference, allowing us to directly network with these young agricultural leaders.

Every year, we also invite middle- and high-school members of 4-H, FFA and Jr. MANRRS to take part in our Youth Leadership Program at the American Farm Bureau Convention. This program provides a chance for students to connect with farmers and ranchers from across the United States, receive leadership training and learn about various parts of the agriculture.

We are so grateful for each of these relationships and hope to watch each one continue to grow. Each organization has a unique approach, but the mission to strengthen agriculture for the future is the same.

By investing in our relationships and building our leadership pipeline, we can cultivate an environment that empowers the next generation to take agriculture to new frontiers and secure our sustainable food, fiber and fuel supply for generations to come.

Zippy Duvall

Zippy Duvall

Zippy Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Georgia, is the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.