GRAND RAPIDS – Like many Michigan farmers, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall is going through some tough times right now. But, like the messaging in the multiple Bible verses he recited Dec. 3, farmers will get through this.
He will get through this.
In a 22-minute live-video feed to 800 farmer members of the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), Duvall apologized for not being able to attend the organization's annual meeting in person as planned. He also shared that his wife, Bonnie, is undergoing a new round of chemotherapy treatment.
“I want to thank you and all of the Farm Bureau family across this country for all the prayers that you have lifted up in Bonnie's name, and we surely ask you to continue to do that as she fights our battle against this cancer,” Duvall said.
“This new chemo is pretty difficult on her right now,” he continued, “but, hopefully, this is just a little hump we'll get over and she'll be stronger in the days to come and that you'll see her in Austin, Texas.”
Duvall, a third-generation Georgia farmer, highlighted the current centennial celebrations of AFBF and MFB, and what the organizations might do to succeed in the next 100 years, including becoming more unified, transparent, engaged and in a relationship with members and leaders at the grassroots and federal levels.
“Michigan, my dad taught me a long time ago that you don’t accomplish anything in life – whether it’s in your marriage, your friendship with others, or even in your spiritual life – without a relationship,” Duvall said.
In the midst of a farming economy that’s experienced rapid growth in bankruptcy filings, extreme rains, natural disasters and trade deals that haven’t come to fruition, Duvall said farmers are experiencing every farming challenge imaginable except for the “kitchen sink.”
Still, according to Duvall, when the going gets tough, read the third verse of “Amazing Grace.”
“This is not a good time in American agriculture,” he said. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home. It’s God’s grace that’s going to get agriculture through this.”
USMCA: ‘Are we there yet?’
There is still no United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and according to the Wall Street Journal, no deal is imminent.
Duvall challenged farmers to continue contacting members of Michigan's Congressional Delegation until a deal is done.
“I encourage you … to act like our children on a long trip and keep asking, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’” Duvall said. “We need to keep calling them until they put it on the floor and get it voted for because the USMCA agreement is vitally important to the future of American agriculture.”
If enacted, the USMCA will replace a 25-year-old trade deal between Mexico and Canada called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Michigan Farm News previously reported the new trade deal would create “new market access opportunities for U.S. exports to Canada of dairy, poultry and eggs.”
“Yes, China is important,” Duvall added. “We want to continue down that road to make sure that we have a successful agreement there, but what's on the front burner is the USMCA. … I'm encouraging each and every one of you to call your congressmen and Senators and push them to make sure that this trade treaty comes to the floor and gets a vote.
“We are the ones that can make it happen.”