In my first few months on the job with Farm Bureau, I prepared for a training on policy development and I felt like I was out of my element. I was never interested in politics and even starting this job, I truly didn’t have a grasp of what grassroots really meant.
Fast forward almost five years later, and here I sit spewing out my excitement and amazement over the Farm Bureau policy development process.
This has become one of the times I wish I was serving as a member and not a staff person, but I’m still so thankful to be representing my counties, agriculture and our members in any way I can.
For those who aren’t familiar with grassroots or Farm Bureau’s policy development (PD) process, it all starts right here in our communities. Our county Farm Bureau hosts meetings with local officials, leaders and farmers. We also send out issue surveys to all active farmer members for input on the issues they face.
As board trustees and myself attend meetings throughout the year, visit farms, and participate in different capacities in the community, we are always listening and identifying key issues.
From all of this input, the policy development committee reviews current policy and adds new policies based on member and community input. Those proposed policies are voted on at our county annual meeting in the fall.
From there, the county proposals are submitted to Ohio Farm Bureau. A state policy development committee of policy staff, Farm Bureau members, state trustees and field staff is created through nominations from the county Farm Bureaus.
The first round of sessions for the committee involves having industry professionals speak about major topics. This year’s topics included broadband, forestry, meat inspection, state and county emergency coordination, agricultural conservation, climate change and sustainable farming.
It is important for the committee to understand each major topic, so they can make the best decision on policy recommendations for our members.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the last round of PD, and it was so amazing. The committee was split into sections and each subcommittee started off reviewing every policy suggestion in their respective sections from the counties and comparing to current policy, and ended with a thorough review of current policy to ensure all items were current and reflective of what a general farm organization would stand for.
On day 2, the entire group came together and shared their section suggestions.
With all of the craziness going on in this world, the bias in some media, and with all of the negativity of politics and parties, it seems nobody can agree anymore. But what I saw last week is a group of farmers and ag professionals come together from different ag backgrounds, different values, political beliefs and farm practices to share experiences and engage in constructive discussion regarding the policies Farm Bureau takes a stand on.
More often than not, the room was not in agreement. But through sharing and explaining, research and compromise on all sides, the committees came up with strong policy recommendations for Farm Bureau member delegates to discuss and vote on in December at the state annual meeting. National policies adopted at the annual meeting will then be escalated to the American Farm Bureau, where members throughout the nation will vote and set national policy.
Farm Bureau policies allow our team to fight for agriculture and the issues agriculture faces. Farm Bureau is there, when you can’t be.
This process is truly amazing and why Farm Bureau is such a strong and influential organization, and it’s all because of our members. I encourage you all to use your experiences, your knowledge, and your voice and get involved in your community to make a difference in things
Use your voice, but do it with an open mind, listening ears that hear all sides, and with an understanding heart. Be the change you wish to see in this world.
On a grassroots level, John Marcel once said that “man can touch more than he can grasp.” After taking part in this process, nothing has ever been so clear.
Submitted Mandy Orahood, the Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties. She can be reached by email.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.