Chris Van Vlack of Loudoun County recently took top honors in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet competition. The competition took place at the 2016 AFBF Annual Convention, held Jan. 10-13 in Orlando, Fla. The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined agricultural topic. The final-round topic was how Farm Bureau members can influence state and national policies in a political atmosphere that favors increased regulations on farmers. “When creating Farm Bureau policies (regarding regulation), we have to have the public in mind,” Van Vlack said. “How will these policies appear to them? They have to be part of the conversation.” Building coalitions with like-minded groups and being willing to raise and commit financial resources to legal challenges are tools Farm Bureau should consider, he said. “But it all starts with convincing the public … that we have their best interests in mind and we can address policy that benefits all of us in society.” Van Vlack will receive his choice of a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2016 GMC Sierra courtesy of GM, plus free registration to the AFBF 2016 YF&R Leadership Conference. “We are incredibly proud of Chris,” said Grant Coffee, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Committee chairman. “He worked very hard for this—practicing and preparing for competition at the state and national levels—and it shows.” A custom hay producer, Van Vlack serves on the Loudoun County Farm Bureau board of directors. He’s also an urban/agriculture conservationist for the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District. He won the 2015 VFBF Young Farmers Discussion Meet at the 2015 VFBF Annual Convention in December in Norfolk. As the state-level winner, Van Vlack was awarded a John Deere Gator utility vehicle courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. He received an upgraded model thanks to the Blueridge Farm Center in Buchanan. He also won $500 from the VFBF, and a travel package to the 2016 AFBF convention. With 128,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry and preserving the Virginia way of life. Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-290-1139, or Ron Saacke, VFBF vice president of young farmer and women’s programs, at 804-290-1032.