fb - voice of agriculture
June 2002

Implementing Farm Bureau Strategies for Success

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Looking back at the progress we have made, I thought I would devote this column to praising dedicated members for their involvement. But I am not going to do that. Instead, I want to praise you for your accomplishments. On the farm, in Farm Bureau, results are far more important than process. Saying work "needs to be done" is one thing, doing the work is quite another and Farm Bureau is blessed with farm families who do what they say they will do to achieve the policy goals they have written.

No event better exemplifies the Farm Bureau "can do" spirit than the passage of the new farm program legislation last month. Farm Bureau people have been working for more than two years to attain the necessary reforms and innovations that would provide a stronger, more effective federal farm program. In that period, there was a time when the farm bill was almost shelved to deal with other issues of national security. Farm Bureau leaders convinced those in Congress that a safe, sound and stable domestic food and fiber industry was just as vital and legislative action was crucial.

New Farm Program Offers Stability and Predictability

Just as crucial, the legislation had to be sound. Members of the Senate and the House blazed diverging paths for federal farm legislation and left it to conference committee leaders to hammer out a final bill. You maintained continual contact with your members of Congress to assure that our policies were acknowledged and adopted. We now have a farm program that promotes planting flexibility, provides a strong counter-cyclical safety net and recognizes, emphasizes and helps fund even greater conservation efforts on our farms and ranches. And Farm Bureau members' contacts helped thwart various proposals that were detrimental to our rights, our incomes and our management abilities.

Prices we receive for the foodstuffs we produce are still what they were 30 years ago so we are encouraging USDA leaders to put this new law into action as soon as they can. Secretary Veneman assures us that her agency has been preparing for this new program and food and fiber producers will see rapid progress.

Chore List Shrinks When Members Get Involved

Your work to implement other Farm Bureau priority policy issues also is making progress. The national energy bill recognizes the multi-faceted value of renewable fuels produced from our crops. Farm Bureau farm families worked tirelessly to secure this provision and we continue to promote its passage. Same with trade reform. You have worked with your members of Congress and agency officials to promote international trading rules that would require other nations to level the playing field by eliminating export subsidies, increasing market access, reducing domestic supports and recognize damage to domestic producers of import-sensitive commodities and create a more effective dispute settlement process.

You have participated diligently to help influence public policy in a way that enhances our ability to produce food and fiber. State Farm Bureaus offer great assistance. Indiana Farm Bureau, for example, maintains a database of people who volunteer to contact their members of Congress when requested. The key to their program is to keep track to make sure the contact is made in a timely and focused manner. The state also has a website that is user-friendly to assist the letter writers in their contacts.

Another example – Farm Bureau has no shortage of meetings and Louisiana Farm Bureau is no different. But, a portion of the agenda of every commodity advisory committee meeting is devoted to discussing national issues and contacting their congressional delegation right then and there. Other states are similarly innovative in encouraging members to be involved and be an active player on Farm Bureau's winning team.

So far this year, leaders from 36 state Farm Bureaus have gone to Washington, D.C., to visit their members of Congress in person. Various leaders of the Kentucky Farm Bureau have visited three times while nine state Farm Bureaus have been there twice. In total, almost 2,400 Farm Bureau farmers and ranchers personally presented our policy positions to their members of Congress and heads of various departments. Through the widespread political acceptance of their input, volunteers see that their efforts do make a difference.

There is an old proverb – I got it from a very stale fortune cookie – which says, "None of the strategies for success will work unless you do." Farm Bureau's strategies work because members do.