The Delaware Farm Bureau convened its annual meeting Dec. 3 at Modern Maturity in Dover with 64 delegates seated.

The delegates approved a few changes to the organization’s bylaws, including a change in the designation of non-farmer members to farm community members. Another change removes the requirement that only voting members may serve on committees and another adds an additional class of professionally engaged voting members, recognizing Delawareans who want to be involved “because they simply love agriculture.” Members in this new designation will include those professionally engaged in an agriculturally related career — as defined by the board of directors — which supports the production of agricultural products.

“We have the chance to tap into a flowing spring of wisdom and knowledge from our neighbors who are involved in agriculture but are not necessarily ‘bona fide’ farmers…These individuals hold an opportunity to reach our neighbors and help support agriculture and a rural way of life which is crucial for us to pass on a viable, flourishing ag economy to our children.” Said James “Jay” Baxter IV, a Sussex County farmer.

Several resolutions amended the DFB’s policy book, one calling for creation of a Delaware Deer Damage Task Force to study and make recommendations of ways to decrease the white-tailed deer damage in Delaware and a another urging the state to undertake a thorough measurement of the population and distribution of property-destroying wildlife within the state including white-tailed deer, sika deer, resident Canada geese and snow geese. Delegates also resolved to urge the state to allow the use of the semi-automatic platform of modern sporting rifles as permitted weapons for the harvest of deer on private land permitted under Deer Damage Assistance Programs.

Finally, delegates approved a resolution to support specific state legislation to clearly protect agritourism operators from frivolous lawsuits.

“My push now, our push, is to try to find people up in age who don’t have someone to turn the farm over to, to tell them they do have the opportunity to sell their farm to this prospective new farmer, and their farm will be preserved in perpetuity,” said Robert Garey, who has served more than 20 years on the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. “I insisted we set aside a money portion of the appropriation for the Young Farmer and Rancher Program, if an individual qualifies, he or she can make the transition when the ground is available.”

Stewart Ramsey shared with attendees how the county and state Farm Bureau had rallied around New Castle County farmers who were challenged with inordinately high taxes on new farm structures. Taxes were lowered by 75% on poultry houses on at least two farms. An award for Nationwide Top Farm Policy Writer was presented to Jules Hendricks, owner of Crow Insurance Agency Inc.

Walter Hopkins, chair of Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement, presented a check for $10,000 to the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation to be used for the Ag Lab. Richard Wilkins, Foundation chair, accepted the donation. This is the second such donation Farm Credit has given the Foundation.

Guest Speaker was John Newton, chief economist at American Farm Bureau Federation, who provided an overview of the 2019 farm economy. Joseph Poppiti, who assumed the position of DFB executive director last December, reported on his first year. The organization recently received a USDA $39,000 specialty crop grant through the Delaware Department of Agriculture to promote Delaware ag products in 2020 and 2021. In cooperation with Nationwide, DFB was able to get a grain bin rescue tube for Harrington Fire Co.

“We would like to partner with someone to get another rescue tube for southern New Castle County,” said Poppiti.

He continued with other successes, including increased presence on social media and in newspaper, radio and television reports. Funds raised at the 5K Milk Run made possible a $10,000 donation to the Ministry of Caring to provide milk for children and a donation of $5,856 to the Delaware Food Bank for its backpack program for at-risk kids.