Buckeye Farm News
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman delivered a passionate annual address to Farm Bureau members in Seattle, showcasing Ohio Farm Bureau as an example for the nation.
“To those who expect to just roll over America’s farm and ranch families, my only message is this: The circumstances have changed,” Stallman said during his speech at the organization’s 91st annual meeting.
Stallman was clear that in order to be successful, farmers of all walks of life must be united and draw the line between polite and respectful engagement with consumers and “aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.”
“Our adversaries are adept at taking advantage of our politeness,” he said. “The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over.”
Stallman said Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) embraced this attitude by taking the fight to the “enemies of modern animal agriculture.”
“Ohio’s Ballot Issue 2 was a big win, and one we must duplicate far and wide,” Stallman said, noting that it is more critical than ever that farmers communicate their values and convey how food production is compatible with traditional ideals.
OFBF leaders and staff gave Farm Bureau members in Seattle an inside look into how the campaign was run and explained how others can follow in the state’s footsteps.
OFBF President Brent Porteus said Issue 2, which creates the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, is just the first round of what he believes will be a long-term battle to determine the care of livestock in the state.
Porteus, OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher and Senior Director of Legislative Policy Adam Sharp all agreed Issue 2 was a pivotal moment for Ohio agriculture and that agriculture’s unity was the key to its success.
“When you get farmers wound up, it’s amazing what we can do and the energy you can generate,” said Sharp, who explained that Ohio consumers weren’t too keen on “out-of-state activists coming into the state and trying to tell Ohioans what to do.”
Because farmers were able to take control of the animal care issue, their opponents struggled to find a message that resonated with Ohioans.
Despite the victory, Sharp said OFBF didn’t take much time to celebrate. “We started planning for the next year less than 24 hours after Issue 2 passed,” he said. “This is a long-term commitment.”
Fisher told AFBF members that now is the time to do something in regards to animal care in their states, and that it is time to take a national proactive approach to the issue. He suggested agricultural groups in states have discussions and come to conclusions about the issue to find out what methods work best for them.
Again, he stressed the importance of all of agriculture being on the same page. “Animal rights groups are most successful when they divide us,” he said.
Porteus urged farmers to seize the chances before them. “We have an opportunity to take ownership of the animal care debate and to take away the one-sided debate of the issue.”
Sharp also shared with members in Seattle initiatives through which OFBF is working as part of the Ohio Food Policy Council to help farmers develop new markets for their products.
Some of these include helping offer fresh local foods in school cafeterias, the development of a mobile poultry processing unit and improving the Ohio MarketMaker program, through which farmers, consumers and food businesses are all connected.