More than 1,100 members and delegates of the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) converged on the Texas coast over the weekend for their 81st annual meeting, to elect officers for the new year, to present awards, to discuss farm policy, and to address a number of issues facing Texas farmers in the year ahead.
A weekend of rain failed to dampen the spirit of enthusiastic delegates who gathered at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi for the three-day convention. Delegates selected Russell Boening of Poth as the 10th president of TFB. A South Texas dairyman, farmer and rancher, Boening grows cotton, corn, grain sorghum, watermelons and wheat. He also runs beef cattle and operates a dairy on his South Texas property.
Boening succeeds Kenneth Dierschke, who served TFB for the last 12 years.
"It’s an honor to lead the greatest agricultural organization," Boening said. "Agriculture and Farm Bureau have been my life. I hope to help Texas Farm Bureau stay on the right track and increase farmer and rancher involvement."
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Other officers elected include Dave Edmiston of McCulloch County, vice president and Robert Gordon of Dallam County, secretary-treasurer.
Two new state directors were elected. Zachary Yanta of Runge in Karnes County is the new District 12 director. President of the Karnes County Farm Bureau, Yanta is a fourth-generation farmer and rancher and owns a land improvement business with his son.
Val Stephens, a cotton farmer from Lamesa, is the new District 6 director. He was the president of Dawson County Farm Bureau and a member of the TFB Cotton Advisory Committee.
Delegates opened discussion on a number of issues facing Texas farmers in the years ahead. Brackish water, property rights and fertilizer regulations topped the list of concerns discussed during the TFB policy session.
"Delegates voted to protect landowners’ rights by including brackish water as part of their right to capture a fair share of groundwater beneath their property," said newly elected TFB President Russell Boening. "We believe landowners own the groundwater in place beneath their land and that includes brackish water."
Also high on the policy agenda were property rights. Boening told delegates that farmers and ranchers who have purchased titles and paid taxes on land should have priority standing in ownership disputes between parties, including state or federal agencies.
Another issue of concern has been gaining support after the tragic chemical fertilizer tragedy last year in West, Texas. Delegates discussed and passed proposed policy that targets ammonium nitrate storage regulations and storage practices.
"Ammonium nitrate is an important agricultural production tool," Boening told delegates. "Storage requirements are essential, but the fertilizer must remain affordable and accessible to farmers and ranchers."
Delegates also voted to support the national beef checkoff established under the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. They opposed, however, the creation of a checkoff program proposed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Much of the weekend was spent recognizing significant contributions to Texas agriculture. Cade and Jessica Richmond of De Leon were named winners of the 2014 Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Outstanding Young Farmer & Rancher contest.
The competition recognizes farmers and ranchers across the state who go above and beyond to succeed in their farm and ranch ventures.
The Richmonds grow hay, cattle and grain near De Leon. They also own and operate a rural real estate business that helps them lease additional land and gain additional hay and cattle customers.
In other awards, Jared Klatt of Bryan was selected from a group of three finalists as winner in this year’s Excellence in Agriculture (EIA) contest.
Klatt is a sales manager for Crop Production Service in Bryan where he helps farmers make sound decisions from pre-planting practices to post harvest. He’s worked with Agrium’s Seed Survivor Tour and donates cottonseed to a local school to teach children about the economic impact cotton has on Texas.
The EIA contest recognizes young men and women who are involved in agriculture, but do not earn their primary income directly from their own farm or ranch enterprises.