The American Farm Bureau Federation will be presenting its highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award and the Farm Bureau Founders Award, to former Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and former Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson during the 2021 American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention, being held Jan. 10 to 13.
AFBF established the Distinguished Service Award in 1928 to honor individuals who have devoted their careers to serving the national interest of American agriculture. Established in January 2017, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Founders award for exemplary leadership, service, or contributions to Farm Bureau is given in recognition of outstanding achievements and work in the interest of Farm Bureau.
Rep. Mike Conaway
Conaway was first elected to represent the 11th Congressional District of Texas in 2004. He served as chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture from 2015 to 2019 and as ranking member from 2019 to 2021. He also served on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics from 2013-2015. He was a deputy Republican whip, a position he held since the 112th Congress. After 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Conaway decided not to run for re-election.
“The people who work in production agriculture, and the people who work in oil and gas, are some of the most decent, honest, hardworking, patriotic Americans you could ever imagine,” said Conaway. “Going to work on their behalf every day was a real joy.”
Conaway chaired the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee during the 113th Congress. In addition, as an important lieutenant to then-Chairman Frank Lucas, he played a major role in the passage of the 2014 farm bill, which benefited farmers and ranchers across the entire country.
Conaway was also a key force in the passage of the 2018 farm bill, leading a process whereby the concerns of farmers, ranchers and rural America were addressed. He fought to ensure that all commodities were adequately funded, providing a strong safety net for American agriculture at a time when net income had decreased by 52% since 2014.
Ronnie Anderson holds the record as the longest-serving state president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau, a position he held for 31 years, until 2020. Under his leadership, the Louisiana Farm Bureau grew from nearly 67,000 members to more than 148,000 today.
Anderson began his leadership in Farm Bureau in 1972 when he was elected president of the Feliciana Parish (county) Farm Bureau. He served on the executive committee of the AFBF board of directors from 2007 through 2016, in addition to chairing AFBF’s Wetlands Study Committee and serving on AFBF’s Trade Advisory Committee. He testified before the House and Senate Agriculture committees numerous times over the past 31 years, guiding policy on farm bills and wetlands issues.
Anderson began his service on the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company board of directors in October 1985 and remains active on this board, serving as chairman since February 2010, and previously, from 1994 through 2006. He serves on the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company board of directors, a position he’s held since 1990. He began his service on the FB BanCorp board of directors in December 1998 and served as chairman from 2002 through 2010. He also served on the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s board of directors from 2001 through 2007. With a goal of ensuring Farm Bureau values and policies regarding education, research and Extension had priority, Anderson served on the Louisiana State University System board of supervisors, which oversees statewide agricultural research and Extension, from 1997 to 2007 and again from 2009 to 2020.
Anderson earned numerous awards and accolades throughout his career. In 1995 he was named “Man of the Year in Louisiana Agriculture” by Progressive Farmer Magazine and was honored by the LSU College of Agriculture with its “Agricultural Alumnus of the Year” award. In 2019, the National FFA Organization awarded Anderson the Honorary American FFA Degree at its national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In 2020, Anderson bravely survived a serious fight with COVID-19.
“There were only a couple of cases in Baton Rouge at the time I got COVID, and they really didn’t know what to do with it,” Anderson said. “They put me in a medically induced coma for over 30 days, and during that time they had to shock my heart twice.”
After 78 days in the hospital, Anderson returned home. “I really think the prayers and concerns of all my friends, and Farm Bureau friends especially, made a huge difference,” he said.
Conaway was nominated by the Texas Farm Bureau for the DSA. Anderson was nominated by the Louisiana Farm Bureau and endorsed by the Florida and Colorado Farm Bureaus for the Founders Award. A national Farm Bureau committee selected each of the winners.