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Buckeye Farm News
If you were to draft a 100-page plan of what agriculture and rural Ohio should look like, what would you write? More importantly, how would you put it into action? That’s exactly what Ohio farmers consider each year as they review and update Ohio Farm Bureau’s policy book. The book contains the results of farmers’ discussions on a wide variety of issues and serves as the marching orders for OFBF staff.
Our strength is in our numbers. Share this article with one nonmember and invite that person to add another voice to the Farm Bureau process to build a better future for farming and rural Ohio.
Ticket to participate
Each farmer gets an equal say on Farm Bureau policies regardless of the size of their farm or what they produce. In that sense, membership in Farm Bureau is an invitation to be part of the discussions that ultimately influence public policy, such as with the creation of Current Agriculture Use Valuation (CAUV) or the Livestock Care Standards Board. In fact, farmers direct Farm Bureau to take action on a host of issues at the local, state and national levels. That may mean working with a county engineer to install a stop sign at a dangerous intersection or working to preserve funding for agricultural programs in the state budget.
A 93-year-old, long-time Farm Bureau volunteer spoke at a county meeting in 2008 and put it this way: “(Membership) protects you as a farmer. It protects your interests at a very reasonable cost. It’s difficult to understand the farmer who has so much invested in his farming, in his equipment and land, and is reluctant to pay the $60 or so that it costs to help protect their benefits.”
An open process
Farm Bureau policies begin to take shape at the county level. The farmers who serve on the county policy development committee are responsible for gathering input from the farm community as well as consulting with local officials and other individuals who can provide information on current issues.
Input from individual farmers and OFBF advisory councils serve as resources for this process. The policy development committee then makes recommendations for local farmers to discuss and vote on at county annual meetings. Each farmer gets one vote on these policies. Farmers also elect delegates who will represent their county’s views at the statewide annual meeting.
Janet Cassidy, OFBF senior director of marketing communications, said the process is designed to be open and fair to all viewpoints
“Your input is valuable and your way of thought may not be well represented in the organization. If you’re not a member, join and make your voice heard in the conversation,” Cassidy said. “At the end of the day we come up with better policy when we have all opinions represented.”
At the statewide annual meeting, more than 300 farmers who are elected by their peers represent views from 88 counties. A statewide policy development committee, similar to the county group, provides recommendations for farmers in attendance to consider. Through the course of the meeting, farmers will go line by line through OFBF’s policy book to make revisions, deletions and additions. Each farmer gets one vote after an opportunity for debate.
Farmers also elect their peers to serve on the state board of trustees. The board of trustees provides oversight of the state organization and sets priorities for staff.
Using the policy book as a guide, OFBF staff members work to implement the positions established by Farm Bureau members. In doing so, farmers are frequently invited to be involved in meetings with lawmakers and in other activities such as giving testimony on regulations. Farm Bureau’s membership base makes it extremely effective at influencing public policy, according to Larry Antosch, OFBF director of policy development.
“When Farm Bureau staff can go down to the Statehouse or into a regulatory agency and we can say we represent an organization of more than 235,000 members, that we’re grassroots, that we cover all aspects of agriculture and all parts of the state, and this is our policy, it carries a tremendous amount of weight. It’s amazing how many times I hear somebody say ‘Farm Bureau has to be involved with this. We need Farm Bureau’s support,’” Antosch said.
Then and Now
For more than 90 years, Ohio farmers have given direction to the Ohio Farm Bureau through a grassroots policy development process. The same process is used today to shape the future of agriculture and rural Ohio. Just as previous generations of farmers worked together to address important issues, here's how you can participate today.
Check out the photo at the "Then and Now" link above to see how OFBF's grassroots process has remained the same throughout the years.