As a true grassroots organization, Farm Bureau draws its strength, passion, direction and authority directly from its membership base. Nowhere is this more obvious, or more exciting, than in late February when Farm Bureau members from all over the nation meet in Washington, D.C. to participate in their respective Issue Advisory Committees.
These committees provide an avenue for Farm Bureau’s grassroots leaders to contribute their expertise on specific issues to the organization’s policy deliberations. The 13 groups are organized topically, covering everything from Animal Care to Water, Energy to Invasive Species. Nestled right in in middle of it all is the committee on which I am honored to serve as chairman: Organic and Direct Marketing. We may be the smallest of the committees, composed of members from California, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas, but we are dedicated to representing all of the organic and direct marketing members of Farm Bureau.
This year’s meeting had its challenges right from the start, as winter weather rolled in strong on Washington. My flight out of Columbus was the fourth scheduled for the day, but the first to successfully make the trip! Fortunately, the other Ohio delegates, including Ryan Conklin (a fellow AgriPOWER Class VIII graduate), Joe Steiner, Jerry Lahmers and Jack Irvin all made it to Washington safely as well. Needless to say, Ohio was strongly represented at Farm Bureau’s national level.
Over the course of the next day, my committee discussed matters of importance to our segments of agriculture, including farm bill implementation, integrity of imported organic grain, GAP/GHP/Organic certifier cross-training, strict enforcement of organic’s pastured livestock rule, and COOL labeling for beef and pork. We were privileged to meet with Dr. Jennifer Tucker (deputy administrator with the USDA Organic Program) and Wes King (senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition). Perhaps most importantly, these eight dedicated farmers spent a portion of their day reviewing American Farm Bureau policy, specifically with an eye toward language of inclusion, accurate representation, and highlighting remnants of old policy that potentially alienate those we are charged to represent.
Farm Bureau stands for all farmers, regardless of methods or production practices, and the fact that a committee for Organic and Direct Marketing exists is a strong testament to that truth. It is both a privilege and an honor to participate in this important work, serve my committee as chairman, and represent Ohio Farm Bureau at the national level. Through the focused efforts of all of these committees, Farm Bureau’s grassroots remain deep and strong!