WEST GREENWICH, RI — The Rhode Island Farm Bureau (RIFB) held their annual dinner and business meeting recently at the Quonset “O” Club in North Kingstown, RI.
During the business meeting, two livestock producers were elected to the board: Don Hopkins, of Hopkins Southdowns (North Scituate, RI), and Ann Marie Bouthillette, of Blackbird Farm (Smithfield, RI).
The evening’s guest speaker was David J. Salmonsen, Senior Director of Congressional Relations of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Salmonsen grew up on a New York dairy and vegetable farm and brought a farmer’s perspective to his discussion of the “mood of the Hill” surrounding the new Farm Bill negotiations.
Key topics of concern in this Farm Bill are milk and cottonseed. Dairy producers have been plagued by several years of low prices that recent programs have done little to mitigate. Cottonseed, which is currently more valuable than cotton, is not considered a commodity for certain government payment programs.
As for the tenor in Congress, Salmonsen suggested both sides of the aisle are motivated to get the 2018 Farm Bill crafted and passed quickly, in contrast to the lengthy delays associated with passing the 2014 version.
The annual meeting was also a time for RIFB President Henry B. Wright III to present awards to individuals who contributed to Rhode Island agriculture over the past year. The Navigator Award is given to deserving individuals or entities that are fearless in protecting the rights of Rhode Islanders and preserving agriculture in the state. Navigator Awards were awarded to RI Sen. Susan Sosnowski, RI Rep. Kathleen Fogarty and RI Rep. Arthur Handy (in absentia).
RIFB also presented the 2017 Outstanding House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Person Award to RI Reps. David Bennett, Raymond Hull, and Alex Marzalkowski (in absentia) for their opposition to H-6023 —locally known as the “chicken bill” — that would have banned the use of battery cages for layers.
Arguably the highest honor RIFB can bestow is the Golden Tractor Award. This year’s recipient was Ken Payne. Payne has extensive experience in state-level planning, having served as chief policy adviser to the RI Senate and federal projects coordinator for former U.S. Sen. Claiborne. In 2017, Payne devoted countless hours of pro bono consultation to RIFB on a number of critical agricultural issues.
Also in attendance were RI Sen. Elaine Morgan and RI Rep. Sherry Roberts, both of whom were instrumental in halting a proposed Business District Overlay in the town of Exeter.
In addition to the business meeting, the event featured a social hour with vendors, an ice cream social and a presentation on cooking with local foods by RIFB Administrative Assistant, Doreen Pagliarini.