John C. (Jack) Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president

Meeting in the Middle

Ohio Farm Bureau is chock full of Republicans and Democrats. We’re home to card-carrying, flag-waving, dyed in the wool liberals, conservatives, left-wingers, right-wingers and libertarians. Farm Bureau members play their politics close to the vest and wear them on their sleeves. We vote our wallets and consciences. When picking candidates, our members are calculated and emotional, rational and intuitive, selfish and selfless.

Why then, when our individual members are an amalgamation of political persuasions, is Farm Bureau’s organizational endorsement such a coveted prize? Because collectively, perhaps better than anyone, Farm Bureau is where left and right find common ground between the extremes. We reflect the middle, which any politician from president to dogcatcher can tell you, is where elections are won.

Farm Bureau’s endorsement is not easily earned. Candidates who seek our approval undergo a formal process of lengthy surveys, personal interviews and general exhaustive scrutiny. Incumbents’ voting records are reviewed. Then, our members huddle up and pick a winner. The process works. In the last election, 96 percent of the Farm Bureau-endorsed candidates won their races.

They’re Democrats and Republicans, female and male, black and white, young and old. But they all meet a prerequisite to obtaining Farm Bureau’s approval: We demand integrity, courage and civility. We’re looking for statesmen – potential leaders who will tell the truth, make tough decisions and be respectful of everyone they govern. Clichéd? Maybe. But in Farm Bureau’s political process, character counts.

Our members also put a premium on access. We like politicians who welcome constituents into their office, respond to e-mails and take phone calls. Our voters voluntarily take time away from their farms, businesses and families to influence public policy, so we expect policymakers to make time for us.

When they listen, here’s what they’ll hear. Call it the food and farm platform – seven issues Farm Bureau will employ as a measuring stick for those who want to earn our vote:

o A low tax burden to promote economic growth
o A fiscally responsible state budget that includes adequate funding for food safety, university research/outreach and natural resource conservation
o Protection of private property rights
o Comprehensive energy policy
o Educational curriculum improvements coupled with funding reform
o Enhanced transportation and communications infrastructure
o Food animal care policies that protect farmers and consumers as well as livestock

Incidentally, this list wasn’t written by a few staff members gathered in the proverbial smoke-filled back room. It’s the product of thousands of members who’ve shared thousands of ideas on what they believe is important, distilled down to seven clear expectations. We think this food and farm platform is pretty solid. Now, we need high-character candidates to stand on it alongside us.

You can stay abreast of our political activities through some voter tools available to Farm Bureau members. Later this year we’ll have a comprehensive election website and a voter’s guide to keep you informed on the statewide races. And you’ll learn about selected candidates who’ve earned Farm Bureau’s favor. Our organization’s choices likely won’t meet the approval of all 235,000 Farm Bureau members, but that’s OK. It’s not our intent to tell you how to vote. But neither will we be bashful about promoting our preferences. Your fellow members have done their homework, and they’re eager to share the lessons they’ve learned.

I suspect, come Election Day, Farm Bureau’s selected Ds and Rs and others will again fare pretty well, not because of their political labels, but because our members have worked hard and found what they’re looking for: The right people who will do the right things.