Convention to focus on agriculture industry challenges, solutions

virginia farm bureau“Growing for the Greater Good” is the theme of the 2016 annual Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention.

This year’s event will be held Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. Featured speakers include American Farm Bureau Federation President Vincent “Zippy” Duvall and political analyst Dr. Robert Holsworth.

Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Ga., is the 12th president of the AFBF, which is the nation’s largest agricultural advocacy group. At the convention’s opening luncheon on Tuesday, he will speak on “Working ‘Beyond the Fencerows’” and give an update on AFBF’s accomplishments and anticipated challenges.

Holsworth is a managing principal of DecideSmart. His address, “Now What? Implications of the 2016 Elections for Rural Virginia,” will touch on public policy issues important to both rural Virginia and the farming community. Holsworth is a former director of the Center for Public Policy and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The afternoon will feature two educational conferences. Feed Directive Facts & Pollinator Plan will share information on regulatory changes in antibiotic feed use and plans to increase protection of pollinating insects, especially honeybees. Dr. Bruce Bowman, a field veterinarian for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will talk about how Jan. 1, 2017, marks a significant change in the way antibiotics are used in animal agriculture. He will tell producers how to correctly implement new feed directives.

Liza Trossbach, program manager for the VDACS Office of Pesticide Services, will speak on the state’s Pollinator Protection Plan to help reverse pollinator losses.

Ears Wide Open, a panel discussion about the disconnect between consumers and farmers will provide suggestions for sharing accurate information about agriculture in an age when consumers have ready access to misinformation and are quick to share. Panelists will be Lauren Arbogast and Jesse Martin.

Arbogast is a former award-winning teacher who works as a learning designer for Vivayic, creating agriculture-related educational experiences for clients. She is involved in her family’s farm in the Shenandoah Valley and blogs on paintthetownag.com. Martin is a producer and broadcaster for On The Farm Radio, which broadcasts to more than 9 million listeners and 230,000 farming operations 6 days a week.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will likely attend and address county Farm Bureau delegates and other participants during the convention. The event will conclude Thursday Dec. 1 with the election of VFBF officers and directors.

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