Among the 20 West Virginia Farm Bureau members traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in the American Farm Bureau Federation 88th Annual meeting were local residents Alvin & Nancy Engelke.

The theme of the 2007 convention, "Scenic Vistas, Expanding Horizons," encompassed issues within all sectors of agriculture. The focus of the conferences, as well as the overall convention was sustaining the present & preparing for the future through innovation & proactive policymaking.

West Virginia Farm Bureau was recognized at this meeting for their accomplishments this past year in policy implementation, member services & public relations. WVFB Vice President Denzil Huff was presented with three "Awards of Excellence" in these areas by AFBF President Bob Stallman in recognition of the state organization's outstanding efforts.

The convention was launched by devotions and then focused on Young Farmer & Rancher Competitions & informational workshops. Representing WVFB this year at Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet was Sara Brown from Greenbrier County. while Mark Stolipher of Jefferson County was the WVFB contestant in the national Young Farmer & Rancher Achievement award contest.

The four top finalists in the Young Farmer & Rancher discussion meet were all women this year. Former local vo-ag teacher, Ben Cummings, won this contest a few years back and drove home a new Dodge truck as his prize.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone from Wirt County to participate as a voting delegate to set national Farm Bureau policy which is an awesome responsibility. Many delegates commented on how much they benefited from the discussions about renewable energy sources and how they appreciated the opportunity to experience meeting farm folks from all over the nation.

WVFB Women's Committee Chairwoman Ethel Nash of Mercer County & Vice Chairwoman JoEllen Blair of Wood County served as voting delegates during the business session of the Women's Leadership Committee of the American Farm Bureau Federation during which time Nash was selected to serve her first two-year term on the committee & will be representing the Northeast Region.

Nancy Engelke and JoEllen Blair attended two inspiring talks on safety and goal setting. Chad Hymas, a quadriplegic as a result of a farm accident talked about how not taking five minutes to put hydraulic fluid in his tractor led to the event that now has him taking five minutes a day to put on each sock. Because of his positive attitude his life is even better now and Hymas tells others how our mind set is what makes our lives what they are.

Heather Whitestone McCallum, 1994 Miss America, lost her hearing at the age of eighteen months. In spite of this handicapped Heather worked endless hours to achieve her goals using her five point plan. "Have a positive attitude, believe in your dream, be willing to work hard, face your obstacles and build your support team."

The event's keynote speaker Sam Donaldson, a 38 year ABC news veteran and Farm Bureau member explained traits he sees as necessary for succeeding as a leader.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who spoke at the closing general session, told members the next farm bill must ensure more equitable support & predictability for farmers & ranchers, while minimizing vulnerability to international challenges on trade issues.

"We must look at more than just the total dollars. The next farm bill must be broader in scope. We're looking at ways to develop programs that are more equitable, effective & less complex." Johanns said, noting that 60 percent of producers receive no farm program payments. "It's important that we maintain natural resources to keep the agricultural industry strong. Producers are believers in conservation, but they're facing more regulatory challenges. We must make sure that producers have the necessary support to comply with program requirements [in the next Farm Bill]."

The convention wrapped up with the annual meeting of state Farm Bureau delegates discussing and voting on the policies that will guide AFBF in 2007. Voting delegates for WVFB were Huff & Region 6 Director, Alvin Engelke of Wirt County.

Delegates at the 88th American Farm Bureau Federation voted to continue their support of the concepts of the 2002 Farm Bill, which expires in September.

On animal identification the delegates voted 85 to 15 percent in favor of a voluntary program. They also supported consideration of legislation to ensure confidentiality of producers' data & provide cost-share assistance from the federal government to encourage participation.

The delegates reaffirmed their support for a voluntary country of origin labeling &voted in support of continued research into feed utilization of distillers dried grains, a byproduct of ethanol and whiskey production; in support of legislation requiring that purchasers of ammonium nitrate show identification; & in opposition to regulation of agricultural dust under the Clean Air Act. The delegates amended AFBF policy to support the opportunity for livestock producers to consider updating the beef checkoff program, including an adjustment in the beef checkoff rate that producers pay.

"Once again, farmers & ranchers from all across the country, with much in common but also with different concerns & needs, have come together to decide what is best for U. S. agriculture as a whole," said President Stallman. "We will work vigorously with members of Congress & federal agencies to advance these policies on behalf of our farmer members."

Entertainment was provided by the J Bar Wranglers, Baxter Black, Michael Martin Murphey, Rolling Stones keyboard man Chuck Leavell & the lady who plays the organ at the Chicago Cubs home games.

The next American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting will be held in January 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.