WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2016 - For the first time in 16 years, there’s someone new leading the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Georgia native Zippy Duvall was elected Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, as the 12th president of AFBF, taking over for Bob Stallman, the Texas cattleman and rice producer who chose to retire after 16 years on the job.
“I can’t tell you the feelings I have today,” an emotional Duvall told AFBF members shortly after he was elected.
Duvall, a poultry and cattle producer, was one of four candidates seeking the office in the first open election for the presidency in 30 years. “If you didn’t vote for me this time,” he said, “I’m going to work so hard that you’re going to want to vote for me next time.
“I’m going to wake up every morning and work for these,” Duvall said as he stretched out his hands. “The working hands of the American farmer and rancher. I will not forget where the strength of this organization is; it’s in those hands.”
After the election, Duvall said he believes in “faith, family, farm, and Farm Bureau,” and those will all be guiding principles during his tenure. He said he’ll spend much of his first year in office having “some very candid conversations” with staff and board members about current Farm Bureau programs and use that information to chart the course for the organization’s future.
“This organization has had good, sound leadership at a lot of different levels,” he said, “and I would be very unfair to say that I was going to change anything until I had the opportunity to go in and evaluate it as president.”
Duvall, whose given name is Vincent but he’s been called Zippy since he was delivered at birth by cesarean section, campaigned with the pledge of building relationships with other agricultural power brokers in Washington to strengthen ag’s foothold in the nation’s capital and beyond.
“Right now, this organization should be reaching out to our commodity groups and saying, ‘What’s the next farm bill going to look like?’ and ‘How can we help write a farm bill that the American public’s going to accept and be OK with?’” Duvall told Agri-Pulse in December. “If we don’t start working now, we’ll be working at the 11th hour . . . and we’ll have to tweak it to make it right for our farmers.”
Like many others in Farm Bureau’s membership and leadership, Duvall isn’t a big fan of regulations, saying they are hindering the full productivity of agriculture.
“We have people to feed, and we can do it,” Duvall said. “The American farmer is so resourceful, and if we can untie his hands and take the burden of regulation off of him . . . we can produce the food that everyone needs at a cost that they can afford.”
South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal was elected to serve as the organization’s vice president, giving the nation’s largest farm organization two new leaders at its helm. VanderWal told reporters after the election that he was “humbled” by the opportunity to serve Farm Bureau and that the group is “right on track as far as helping educate consumers and helping educate people that use our products,” but he’s looking forward to doing more to advance the cause of food security as a national security concern.
Duvall was elected after three votes by the 353 delegates, overcoming former Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock in the final runoff where final vote tallies were not disclosed. VanderWal was one of three candidates vying for the vice presidency and was able to secure a simple majority on a single ballot.
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