South Dakota brings home honors from American Farm Bureau Convention

Farm Forum

Huron – Members of the South Dakota Farm Bureau participated in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th annual meeting recently in San Antonio, Texas, bringing home several honors for the state.

South Dakota Farm Bureau (SDFB) received the Navigator Award from its national organization in recognition of exceptional membership growth. South Dakota Farm Bureau reached 105 percent of its state membership goal in 2013, with an all-time record for the state of 13,800 Farm Bureau member families.

SDFB was also honored with two State Awards of Excellence. The first was in the “Public Relations & Communications” category for SDFB’s new publication, Town & Country Connection, a quarterly magazine that features the stories of South Dakota farm and ranch families and the food they bring to your table. The second was in the category of “Leadership Development” for SDFB’s own “Farm Bureau University” (FBU) program. “FBU” is a multi-phase leadership development program for members of County Farm Bureaus, designed to improve and revitalize County Farm Bureaus by engaging producer members in personal development, leadership, and skill building. South Dakota’s FBU program also received a President’s Award, the top award in the Leadership Development category.

Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau and a third-generation farmer from Volga, S.D., was re-elected to represent the Midwest Region on the American Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Travis Gebhart, a young rancher from Meadow, S.D., was elected by his peers as the Vice Chair of the AFBF Young Farmer & Rancher Committee. He and his wife, Renae, were elected to serve on the national YF&R Committee last year.

In the policy session, Farm Bureau delegates from across the nation took on a number of issues. One of the issues the delegates discussed at length was new policy supporting the protection of proprietary data that is collected from farmers who use precision agriculture technologies. Farm Bureau delegates maintained that this data should remain property of the farmer, and they opposed farmers’ data being held in a clearinghouse or database by any entity that is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

South Dakota Farm Bureau’s delegates were Scott VanderWal along with Wanda Blair, a rancher from Vale, S.D. who serves as Vice President of the organization. Alternates were Richard Vasgaard of Centerville, S.D., and Roger Hurlbert from Clark, S.D.

“Farmers and ranchers from all over the nation came together to make policy for our organization, and this direction from the grassroots members gives Farm Bureau the strength and authority to work with Congress to complete important tasks on the to-do list,” VanderWal stated. “I was proud to be a part of the delegate session, and I am proud of the good work South Dakota Farm Bureau is doing in our membership growth, leadership development, and program areas.”

Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization, with more than 13,000 member families in South Dakota, and more than 6 million member families nationwide.