The American Farm Bureau Federation presented its highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award to Bob Stallman and the Farm Bureau Founders Award to James Quinn, posthumously, during AFBF’s 2017 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix.
AFBF established the Distinguished Service Award in 1928 to honor individuals who have devoted their careers to serving the national interest of American agriculture. The Farm Bureau Founders Award is a new award to recognize exemplary leadership, service or contributions to Farm Bureau by officers or employees of AFBF and state Farm Bureau organizations.
Stallman served as president of the nation’s largest general farm organization for 16 years, stepping down in 2016. A rice and cattle producer from Columbus, Texas, Stallman sharpened his leadership skills as a young farmer and rancher. He became president of the Texas Farm Bureau in 1993, and AFBF president in 2000.
“Yes, Bob was from Texas, but he did a great job for all of American agriculture,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said. “You talk to the folks in Iowa, you talk to the folks in New York, you talk to the folks on the west coast, and they all thought a lot of Bob.”
Under Stallman’s leadership, the AFBF brand became stronger, and the organization was retooled for the 21st century. He moved AFBF headquarters from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to strengthen Farm Bureau’s voice and policy influence for its members. As chief spokesperson for AFBF in Washington, Stallman was articulate and resolute, sticking up for American agriculture and advocating for Farm Bureau policy. He led the charge in standing up to government overreach and helped secure major gains for farmers and ranchers. His leadership and expertise has garnered respect across the agriculture and food industry, and he used that influence to foster dialogue with consumers and lawmakers alike.
Stallman has served on a number of national committees, boards and coalitions. This includes serving as the first chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. He was appointed by both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations to serve on the advisory committee for the U.S.
Trade Representative, and worked with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to address the issues facing rural America. The secretary called Stallman’s leadership “critically important” in the passage of the farm bill and in helping advance trade opportunities for American agriculture.
“Every morning I would wake up and think about the new challenges that the day was going to have, but also thankful for the fact that I had been given an opportunity to work with a lot of people in agriculture to hopefully make things better,” Stallman said in reflection on his years of service.
More than a century ago, James Quinn was elected as the first president of the first Farm Bureau in the country, Broome County, New York, in 1911. A prominent local dairy farmer, Quinn set an important precedent for the Farm Bureau being directed by farmers and for farmers.
“He got it started, and we have so much pride that it happened right here in Broome County,” said Broome County Farm Bureau President Dave Johnson. “I think he must have been a really trusting, respected person from the community because he was willing to accept new ways of farming, and with his farm was on a major thoroughfare, people could actually see how he was farming everyday as they went by.”
Farmers in Broome County respected Quinn and looked to him for leadership. He worked closely with one of the first county Extension agents in the country, John Barron, who taught Quinn and his neighbors best farming practices for their challenging soil. Quinn led by example, holding the first farm experiments on his land.
American agriculture has undergone major changes beyond what Quinn saw in 1911, but the values Quinn and his fellow Farm Bureau members held—faith, family and honest work—have not changed.
The Texas Farm Bureau nominated Stallman to receive the DSA award; the New York Farm Bureau nominated Quinn to receive the Founders Award. A national Farm Bureau committee named each as winners.
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