A guide to influencing farm, rural policy

Buckeye Farm News 

Spring marks the time when Ohio Farm Bureau members begin gathering for discussions that will lead to the establishment of the organization’s local, state and national action agenda. Local grassroots policy development meetings identify issues that are important to Farm Bureau members and generate possible solutions.

According to Larry Antosch, OFBF director of policy development and environmental research, the process is one of the best means to assure that the grassroots input from Farm Bureau members is addressed.

“The policy development process has been in place since the early days of Farm Bureau. Policy development is a highly effective and unique process that at times can be easily be taken for granted,” Antosch said. “We must not underestimate the importance and power of Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy development process to address problems and concerns.”

So what makes good policy? According to Antosch, it has to be more than simply stating an opinion.

 “Policy should clearly state the problem or issue that needs to be addressed and state a possible solution,” he said.

 Well-written policy strikes a delicate balance between stating a specific goal and not dictating a narrow solution that may tie the hands of those who will work to make it a reality. The policy should be directed to something that Farm Bureau can or should be expected to accomplish.

The process begins with establishment of a local policy development team.

“That team consists of individuals who represent all segments of the local agricultural community. Members are appointed early in the year and meet throughout the spring and summer, gathering pertinent information to use to draft policy proposals,” Antosch said.

 The team members use both Farm Bureau and non-Farm Bureau resources as they consider issues. Individual Farm Bureau members, advisory councils and county Farm Bureau teams all serve as policy development resources. In addition, the team meets with the leadership of commodity groups, government agencies, elected officials and special interest groups.

“It is important that sufficient information and facts are gathered to ensure that sound policy recommendations are drafted and proposed,” Antosch said. “The team gathers information from a multitude of sources to identify issues that can/should be addressed as well as possible solutions.”

 Potential policy recommendations are drafted and presented to Farm Bureau members for their consideration at the county annual meeting. Adopted county policies are submitted to the state policy development team, which is made up of Farm Bureau members from around Ohio. The state Policy Development Team recommends policy changes to the membership for its consideration at the state annual meeting.

“Once adopted, the policies serve as a to guide to accomplishing OFBF’s goals and establish our priorities,” Antosch said.

Questions to ask for good policy:

  • Does it directly affect agriculture?
  • Does it ask for or will it result in action?
  • Is it forward looking?
  • Is it of high interest to members?
  • Should it be undertaken by Farm Bureau?
  • Is it needed?
  • What should be written?
  • What is the result expected?
  • Is it general enough to give latitude for execution?
  • Is it specific enough to establish a clear goal?
  • Is it something Farm Bureau can – or should be expected to – accomplish?
  • Is the proposal forward looking? (Will it affect something in the future that can result in some form of action?)
  • Is the problem something Farm Bureau can actively address?
  • How does it relate to Farm Bureau’s vision statement: “Forging a partnership between farmers and consumers that meets consumer needs and ensures agricultural prosperity in a global marketplace.” Does it move Farm Bureau closer to the shared vision for the future?


Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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