The 72nd Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau took place in Hershey, PA, with hundreds of attendees and delegates who were seated for the delegate session. The state meeting is the culmination of Pennsylvania county Farm Bureau efforts to develop policy that will guide the state in addressing issues that affect agriculture and rural communities.
During the annual meeting, Farm Bureau members attended educational seminars covering a variety of topics including ag security and risk for today’s farmer, farm equipment for safety and accessibility, an introduction to the Family Forest Carbon Program, agritourism and Lyme disease.
Topics for new state policies included farmland ownership by foreign countries, deer hunting, milk marketing, nutrient management, roadways and other infrastructure, invasive species and meat processing. Policies that pass at the state level will appear in the 2023 policy book and be supported by PFB.
Delegates also discussed policies for national consideration that will be submitted to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Topics included USDA programs, dairy programs, government mandates for electric vehicles, CDL training for seasonal workers, conservation programs and livestock processing.
Several awards were given at the meeting, including Distinguished Service to Agriculture. This year, the award was given to 97-year-old Edward Heyler of Tioga/Potter County. Heyler grew up on a farm, attended Penn State and became a vocational agriculture teacher. In addition to a 33-year teaching career, Heyler raised poultry and crops, and at one point operated a greenhouse business with his late wife Dorna. While teaching, Heyler expanded the ag program in the Northern Tioga School District. After retirement, he found great pleasure in keeping in touch with former students. Today, Heyler continues to operate a cow/calf operation with his son Marty.
The Distinguished Local Affairs Award was given to Darrell Becker, Fayette Co. Becker organized a series of agriculture roundtable discussions hosted by the Fayette Co. commissioners. Becker also led the way as an advocate and arranged Farm Bureau events to showcase the importance of farmland preservation in the County.
In honoring Becker, PFB President Rick Ebert said, “Darrell has shown true leadership in promoting the legislative needs of Farm Bureau and its members at the county and state level. His efforts in Fayette County have made an impact in educating the public about the needs of farmers, which is important for all of us.”
In an election held at the close of the three-day delegate session, former state vice president Chris Hoffman was elected as the ninth president of PFB. Outgoing president Ebert was recognized for his years of service to the organization. Prior to his election as state president, Ebert served as vice president for 10 years. Among other accomplishments, Ebert was named Country Folks Keystone Farm Show Farmer of the Year in 2007 for his long-time involvement and leadership in the dairy industry.
President-Elect Hoffman, who farms in Juniata Co., served as the organization’s vice president for the past eight years. Hoffman has been involved with Farm Bureau for 28 years in several capacities, including service on the State Board of Directors and a member of the board’s executive committee. Hoffman also chaired the AFBF’s Promotion and Education Committee for four years. In 2019, the National Pork Board name Hoffman America’s Pig Farmer of the Year.
“As an organization we are called to be the leader in agriculture and I am excited about what the future has in store for all of us,” said Hoffman. “I know that we need to be united, we need to work hard to identify the problems and we need to communicate. We need to come together as a unified voice to make this Farm Bureau do the impossible.” Hoffman looks forward to working together with Farm Bureau members throughout the state to keep the organization at the forefront of modern agriculture.
If you’re a member of Farm Bureau in any state and haven’t yet become involved in policy development, contact your county board and ask about it. Grassroots policy is the basis of the organization and it’s the way farmers make sure their voices are heard on both state and national levels.
by Sally Colby