This week as millions of Americans went back to work after the New Year‘s holiday, thousands of men and women who kept working straight through the holidays began packing and finalizing schedules to have friends and family care for crops and livestock. Many of these farmers worked through the holidays but find the American Farm Bureau Federation‘s annual meeting requires their time.
The words “farm bureau” sometimes get thrown around without anyone taking the time to step back and talk about the basics of the organization. So before the thousands of farmers gather, I asked a few of them to share their thoughts with us. I wanted them to give me a few of the basics: Who are they (farm name, location, what their farm produces)? What is the Farm Bureau?, Are they involved in Farm Bureau? If so how? What happens at local, state and national FB meetings? What is something Farm Bureau has done to help you, your farm or area?
Mark Lathrop from Northern California
I work for Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest private forestland owner in California. We produce lumber, millwork, windows and doors, and various wood fiber products. Although not your typical agricultural product, wood is something everyone uses on a daily basis, given the thousands of items made with cellulose fiber on the ingredient list.
I am currently on the Shasta County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, serving as 2nd Vice President. County Farm Bureaus work parallel with State Farm Bureaus to protect farms and ranches.
The California Farm Bureau Federation sets policy objectives for the benefit of California farms and ranches. Farm Bureau is committed to fighting onerous regulations, fees and taxes and policies that drive up the cost of farming supplies and services.
Farm Bureau, through various educational venues, conveys the important public benefits working landscapes provide, such as wildlife habitat, preserved open space, improved air quality, water and soil resources, carbon sequestration and a safe, nutritious and affordable food supply.
Farm Bureau is committed to ensuring farmers and ranchers have innovative tools and technologies to grow, harvest and market their products while competing with other states and nations, to overcome the higher cost of doing business in California that continues to put our farmers at a disadvantage.
Farm Bureau is committed to helping consumers understand where their food comes from, the challenges associated with producing a safe, affordable food supply and to ensuring consumer confidence in California-grown products.
Farm Bureau is committed to public and private investments in water and infrastructure improvements that support a healthy economy and environment.
One of the most important benefits that our CA State Farm Bureau provides is the ability to work on our behalf in the political arena when potential harmful legislation is pending.
Chris Chinn of Missouri
Farm Bureau is a grassroots farm organization that represents the values and priorities of farm families in my county, state and the nation. My county sets policy and we send voting delegates to the Missouri Farm Bureau annual meeting to help set state policy every year. Our State Volunteer Leaders then go to the AFBF Annual Meeting every year to help set national policy. Our policy is set by farmers who work the land and with livestock every day.
I am very involved in Farm Bureau (FB). I’m a county board member as well as a state board member. At our local, state and national meetings we discuss issues important to our farm and our ability to continue to farm in the future. We talk about implications of pending legislation and we (FB Volunteer Leaders) take positions on issues important to our farming community. This gives FB paid employees a guideline for the next year and helps them know how to express our concerns on the issues important to agriculture. At the local level we also donate money to charitable organizations and we hold fundraisers to help support sending Young Farmers & Ranchers to the annual state leadership conference. At the state level FB offers leadership training to county leaders and opportunities to serve on State committees. They also take farmers to Washington DC once a year so they can meet with their elected leaders and express concerns they may have.
You ask about one thing FB has done to help me/our farm: That’s a tough one because they do so much for us. FB is our lifeline on the farm. They keep an eye on important issues that may have a positive or negative impact to my farm. They help me stay informed so I can protect my children’s ability to return to the family farm. FB has helped take my message to state and federal leaders, as well as offering leadership training so I can become a more effective leader for my community, farm and family.
With the meeting underway, the American Farm Bureau has an event blog where they have contributors from across the country in addition to their regular Farm Bureau blog which has contributions from members regularly. Many of the state organizations also have activities online as do many farmers. You can reach Mark through Twitter as @SustainableWood and read his blog Thoughts from a Knothead with Sawdust in His Veins. You can reach Chris through Twitter as @ChrisChinn and read her blog http://chrischinn.wordpress.com/