Six educational seminars at the 2017 Iowa Farm Bureau (IFBF) annual meeting will deliver insights on a range of consumer, environmental and economic issues affecting Iowa farmers.

The meeting kicks off at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 with three seminars covering water quality, connecting with consumers and rural entrepreneurship. The 90-minute sessions will be repeated at 2:30 p.m.

Another round of educational seminars will be held Wednesday, Dec. 6 with sessions on the farm bill, health insurance and farm financial management. The one-hour-long seminars will start at 10:15 a.m. and repeat at 11:30 a.m.

Water quality

A trio of farmers will talk about their conservation efforts in a seminar titled, “It takes a Village to Protect a Watershed.”

Mike Ehlers of Buena Vista County, John Schulte of Iowa County and Jeff Pape of Dubuque County will share how they have became involved in successful efforts to improve water quality within their watershed.

Some of the watershed projects have been ongoing for a decade, while others are just beginning, said Barb Lykins, IFBF community resources director.

“All three of them have been very active. They’ll talk about how the projects got their start and their interaction with the community,” she said.

Consumer connections

A seminar on “Connecting with Consumers Online and ‘IRL’ (In Real Life)” will feature a panel of Farm Bureau members who are active on social media and in their communities.

In the morning session, blogger and 2014 IFBF Joslin Award winner Val Plagge of Franklin County will be joined by Larry Sailer of Franklin County and Jason Russell of Linn County. Plagge will return for the afternoon panel with Jacob Handsaker of Hardin County and Greg Rinehart of Boone County.

The farmers will share ways they promote agriculture and how they work to educate non-ag audiences about farmers’ production and conservation efforts.

“We wanted to engage Farm Bureau members who have a very active social media presence,” Lykins said. “They’ll provide their perspective on how you can effectively use that platform to inform and engage consumers who are generations removed from the farm and often have questions on how the food they eat is grown and raised.”

Rural opportunities

Three rural innovators will come together for a session titled “Iowa’s Rural Challenge: Creating Opportunities.” Colin Hurd of SmartAg, Matt Rooda of SwineTech and Lilia Roekpe of SaleRing will talk about how they took an idea to solve a challenge facing farmers and brought a business solution to the market.

SwineTech is a finalist in the American Farm Bureau Fed­eration’s (AFBF) Rural Entre­pre­neurship Challenge and will compete for the top prize at the AFBF 2018 Annual Convention in Nashville in January. The company has developed technological solutions to keep piglets from being crushed in farrowing barns.

SaleRing, an advanced mobile app for livestock auctions, also earned a Top 10 finish in the AFBF Entrepreneurship Challenge and was named best-in-show in the ag technology category.

SmartAg, which uses technology to solve farm labor scarcity, is Hurd’s second ag start-up. In 2013, he developed TrackTill, which has since been licensed to Yetter Manufacturing.

Farm bill, national issues

Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) senior director of congressional relations, will provide the latest information on the 2018 farm bill and other key national policy issues, which seem to change on a day-to-day basis since President Donald Trump’s election.

Thatcher, an Iowa native, has worked for AFBF for 30 years and  is regarded as a leading expert on farm programs, crop insurance and conservation issues.

Health insurance

Health insurance is another hot topic for farmers. With many health insurance providers pulling out of the individual market, some families, including Farm Bureau members, have been forced to seek alternate solutions.

Steve Kammeyer, vice president of FBL Health Insurance Services, will be joined by Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen and Wellmark Government Relations Vice President Scott Sundstrom to discuss the most current information regarding the ever-changing health insurance market.

“If you’ve got burning questions, this is the time to get answers from leaders of Iowa’s health insurance community, Lykins said.

Farm business strategies

Chris Barron, a farmer and ag business consultant from Rowley, will offer farm financial perspectives on “Managing for Success in 2018 and Beyond.” Barron is president of Carson and Barron Farms and also offers consulting services through Ag View Solutions.

He will offer strategies to help farmers manage farm finances by evaluating cash rent, inputs and other costs of production and set realistic goals through short-term and long-term strategic planning.

For more information and a full agenda of 2017 IFBF annual meeting activities, go to