Hershey, PA, was the destination for hundreds of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) members who met for the organization’s 73rd annual meeting. One of the most important aspects of the meeting is the culmination of policy development through the adoption of policies by the delegate body.

Policy development is the backbone for all state Farm Bureaus as well as the national organization, American Farm Bureau Federation. Policy development is a grassroots effort that begins at the county level with members submitting ideas to solve issues to benefit agricultural production and those living in rural areas. Policies also help the general public by preserving and enhancing farmers’ ability to produce food safely and economically.

After policy suggestions are approved at each county annual meeting, Farm Bureau staff fine-tune and assemble policies for approval. At sub-committee and full committee meetings, county policy representatives ensure each policy is worthy of submission to the state.

Some of the policies at the delegate session drew intense discussion, including those on solar installations on farmland, milk marketing, hunting and fishing and vehicle/highway regulations.

The annual meeting served as a platform for electing a new state vice president to fill the seat vacated by now-president Chris Hoffman. Tommy Nagle, who raises beef cattle and crops in Cambria Co., had been serving as interim vice president and was elected to serve as vice president.

Nagle served as president of Cambria Co. Farm Bureau, on the Cambria Co. Farm Bureau Board of Directors and on the PFB State Board of Directors. He’s been a longtime contributor to Farm Bureau, including service as policy development chair and the chair of Young Farmers & Ranchers (now Young Ag Professionals) in Cambria Co.

An important event at the state meeting is the Young Ag Professionals (YAP) Discussion Meet. During this competition, contestants prove their ability to analyze and develop solutions for ag issues. This year’s winner was Kaylee Smith of Penn State’s Collegiate Farm Bureau.

PA Farm Bureau hosts 73rd annual meeting

PFB President Chris Hoffman met with 4-H and FFA members who assisted during the annual meeting. Photo by Sally Colby

The YAP Achievement Award was presented to Cumberland Co. members Ryan and Andrea Brown. This award recognizes a young farmer or farming couple who have shown leadership in production agriculture. The Browns raise beeves, goats and crops and provide leadership in several Farm Bureau roles. Ryan serves as president of Cumberland Co. Farm Bureau and Andrea serves on AFBF’s Ag Promotion & Education Committee. Both Ryan and Andrea serve as co-chairs for District 9 on the state YAP Committee.

Columbia Co. Farm Bureau was awarded the prestigious Premier County Award, the highest honor for a county Farm Bureau. “Whether they are organizing legislative farm tours, attending our state legislative conference and meeting with elected officials, hosting children and members of their local communities on educational farm tours or participating in a variety of other activities, our farmer volunteers do an amazing job of representing agriculture through the leadership of our county Farm Bureaus,” said PFB President Chris Hoffman. “Over the past year, the Columbia County Farm Bureau demonstrated the highest level of excellence in a wide variety of program areas to earn the Farm Bureau Premier County Award.”

PFB’s Women’s Leadership Committee selected Bonnie LaTourette as the recipient of the 2023 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award. A lifelong dairy farmer, LaTourette served as county vice president, co-chair of her county’s Women’s Leadership Committee and has participated in the Farmers Care program that collects food and donations for the Ronald McDonald House.

Beaver/Lawrence Co. Farm Bureau member Cliff Wallace was presented with the 2023 Distinguished Local Affairs Leader Award. This award recognizes an outstanding individual whose local affairs efforts and activities have helped solve problems and improve rural living for county Farm Bureau members.

Following the East Palestine train derailment at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, Wallace assisted in cleanup efforts and worked with the Ohio Farm Bureau, state and national officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, EPA and DEP to ensure trust in the local food system.

Elk Co. Farm Bureau member Ernie Mattiuz was presented with the 2023 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, which recognizes an individual whose work and service has significantly contributed to the advancement of Pennsylvania agriculture. Mattiuz’s work helped enact a law that provides a tax exemption status for loggers. He also served as the committee chair of PFB’s Wildlife & Fisheries Committee and was instrumental in updating the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Red Tag law.

Former PFB President Rick Ebert was presented with the Barnraiser Award in recognition of his many years of service at the local, state and national levels. Ebert served on the state Board of Directors as vice president for 10 years and state president for eight years.

In 2007, Ebert was named Country Folks Keystone Farm Show “Farmer of the Year.” He was recognized for his involvement and accomplishments in the dairy industry and his involvement in social and ag organizations.

In addition to the delegate session and social events, members attended educational sessions on a variety of topics including federal funding opportunities, no-till farming, mental health in agriculture, fire prevention, regulatory updates for livestock, wholesaling to schools and farm family communication.

by Sally Colby