We have all tired, in recent months, of the constant political bombardment on every TV news program. It would be bearable if candidates would stick to issues and solutions. The sad reality in politics is that candidates are quick to ‘go negative’ against their ‘opponents’ because more times than not, it works.
I’m proud to tell you that the exact opposite approach was on display at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention last month. I was one of 353 delegates charged with replacing Bob Stallman, a cattleman and rice grower from Texas who served as AFBF President since 2000. Four good candidates emerged to accept that leadership role. Each came from a different sector of the nation (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Oregon).
Each engaged in a campaign that can only be described as polite and positive. Each displayed a high level of character as they confidently talked about their strengths. It was refreshing that each had nothing but good to say about their competitors. It was clear by their acts that each was proud to be a farmer and strived to use their considerable leadership abilities and rock-solid values to represent farmers from across our nation.
In any election, there is a winner and losers. The winner needed to earn the votes of 177 of the 353 delegates. It took three ballots to narrow the field. Emerging victorious was Zippy Duvall. He’s a former dairyman who raises beef cattle, hay and poultry in Greshamville, Georgia. I’ve found Zippy to be a warm and engaging guy who welcomes conversation. He’s a non-judgmental man of faith who confidently has courage in his convictions. Farm Bureau members will be well served by him and as a member of the AFBF Board of Directors, I look forward to seeing where his leadership skills take our organization.
When his name was announced as the winner, every delegate in the room stood up and applauded. Can you imagine anything remotely similar to this happening upon the outcome of this November’s presidential election?
Throughout the entire campaign for AFBF President, I couldn’t help but compare it with the unappealing political process playing out on our national stage.
It’s disheartening to see debates devolve into insult contests, where the candidates focus less on voting records and policy positions, and resort to name-calling and attacks on the religious beliefs or personal appearances of others. All that comes of this is a polarized electorate and a paralyzed government.
These two elections stand in stark contrast for another reason. Wisconsin accounts for just three delegates at the AFBF Annual Convention and yet all four candidates either came to Wisconsin to meet with the WFBF Board or spent an hour on Skype taking our questions on agricultural issues and AFBF’s governance. What a difference from the presidential contest, where after the Iowa caucuses it quickly becomes about big media markets in big cities in big states, where the nominees will likely be picked by the time Wisconsinites go to the polls on April 5.
While selecting an American President culminates with a peaceful transfer of the most powerful job in the world on the steps of the U.S. Capitol next January, I wish the entire process looked a little bit more like the classy way it’s done by the American Farm Bureau.
Jim Holte was elected president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in 2012. He was elected to the WFBF Board of Directors in 1995. He represents District 9 which consists of the Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer and St. Croix county Farm Bureaus as well as the Superior Shores County Farm Bureau (made up of Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Iron counties). Jim was elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors in January of 2015 as a representative of the Midwest region. Jim and grows corn soybeans and alfalfa on 460 acres of land south of Elk Mound. He also raises beef steers. He and his wife, Gayle, have two children and four grandchildren.