Former IFBF president reflects on Farm Bureau’s impact and urges members to continue standing up for agriculture.

Editor’s note: Following is a transcript of former Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill’s speech after receiving the American Farm Bureau Founders Award at the AFBF annual convention in Salt Lake City. It has been edited lightly for length and clarity. Hill served Iowa Farm Bureau for 32 years as a district director, vice president and president, the longest tenure in the organization’s history.

“In my 36 years attending these annual meetings, I never once considered nor anticipated ever stepping to the podium to receive such an honor as this, the Founders Award. I sincerely want to thank (IFBF) President Brent Johnson and the Iowa Farm Bureau board of directors for not only the nomination but for the shared mutual respect that we’ve had with each other over the past many, many years. I also want to thank the selection committee and the AFBF board for their consideration. I’m humbled, I am honored and I’m grateful.

“America’s farm families are a very special breed, a special class of people.

“We have probably the most prosperous occupation on Earth in terms of the intangibles — the beauty of growing a crop, the witnessing of a newborn calf as he rises to his feet, the planting and nurturing of our crops, the harvesting and the abundant pleasures of being a caretaker of the land.

“These experiences and rewards are so satisfying that we in agriculture are tempted to work for free. Sometimes we do. 

“However, nothing brings more joy and happiness in life than pulling together as a family to meet the challenges of farming and ranching, and to celebrate those rewards and the great experiences in life on the farm together. Generation to generation, husband and wife, sons and daughters, grandparents, and grandsons and granddaughters — all together experiencing the family farm.

“It’s truly a national treasure, and I will tell you that America’s family farms are envied all over the world. I’m thankful by birth, by choice and by trade to be an American farmer and have my life occupied by three inseparable things — the farm, the family and Farm Bureau.

“But first and foremost, I must tell you that these three inseparable things — the farm, the family and Farm Bureau — would not have been possible in my lifetime without my partner of 45 years — my wonderful wife, Patti.

“She worked alongside me, she put up with me, she sorted hogs with me. And she filled all those gaps while I was away with Farm Bureau meetings. 

“It is true that during the farm crisis days of the 1980s, that’s when I really became inspired to take an active role in Farm Bureau. I knew the challenges and opportunities that were provided by our government, and they would follow one  another like night and day. And I knew AFBF was on the front lines, just as they are today. It was critical to the future of U.S. agriculture in the 1980s, and it is critical now.

“To witness a government that was founded on the concept of freedom and the rights to property — and to have an agency of government who would on their own accord create new definitions never used before suggesting whenever two raindrops fall and accumulate for even a short period of time — that land, your land, now becomes under the control and jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers with the goal that the use of your land would only be at the discretion of a federal agency. Where would we be if not for Farm Bureau in this fight? 

“Stay the course. WOTUS still hangs over our heads. It’s the most consequential threat to American agriculture that I’ve seen since the 1980s.

“Another lesson of the ‘80s — the trade wars. Well, trade wars never end well. The free flow of goods and the lack of barriers from government is essential not only for peace and global prosperity, but trade is absolutely critical for our economic well-being as farmers. Food should never be weaponized. The American farmer who is envied around the world should remain a reliable supplier. 

“We are on a dangerous path today with both political parties seeking to outdo one another with protectionist rhetoric and policies.  I want to remind you, the first victim of a trade war could be the American farmer. Again, where would we be without Farm Bureau in this fight?

“Each individual that shows up can make an incredible and incremental difference on our future. 

“Continue to show up. Each and every county Farm Bureau, every state Farm Bureau, every Farm Bureau-affiliated company has a story to tell and an impact to be made. Take pride in America’s farm families. Take pride in who we are, what we stand for, and take pride in knowing what we can achieve by working together. Thank you.”