fb - voice of agriculture
July 2002

Speak Up for Agriculture

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

"We have got to do a better job telling the farmer's story."

Without doubt, I can count on hearing that comment from Farm Bureau members at virtually every organizational function and gathering I attend. I quickly agree and re-emphasize the "WE" part. Farm Bureaus at all levels do a very good job of providing agricultural information to a wide variety of audiences. But communications requires more than just sending out a message. The message must be received. Since people process and comprehend information differently, there are a number of ways to get our story told.

Farm and ranch families can and do play a large and important role in explaining issues and making them relevant to non-farmers to gain their approval and support. Since farmers are a minority of the total population, we need to build the general publics understanding and acceptance for those proposals that strengthen America's agricultural industry and meet the needs of our farm families'.

More Agricultural Advocates Needed

Many county and state Farm Bureaus have active and effective speakers' bureaus, designed to explain and promote the agricultural issues of the day. We can greatly expand these efforts. Farm families can help themselves by discussing issues with their children to help develop the advocates of the future. When was the last time you talked to your children or grandchildren about the benefits of farm programs, or the cost you bear for excessive estate planning, or the production impact of bad weather? Such discussions will bear fruit. We are creating ambassadors for America's agriculture.

AFBF's website, www.fb.org, carries gigabytes of information on our priorities, legislative activities and organizational campaigns. Our national publication to state and county leaders goes into more detail. State and county Farm Bureaus have similar information dissemination techniques. It is important for us as individuals to receive the messages, put them in our own words and recommunicate the basic points to all who will listen.

By now, you are probably thinking, "Okay, thanks for the summary of Communications 101. So what?" It is clearly time for us to get back to basics, judging by actions occurring in our nation's Capitol. Those who supported our efforts to pass legislation to permanently eliminate death taxes should be remembered, as well as those who opposed elimination. Your state Farm Bureau can easily tell you, if it hasn't already, the votes of your state's congressional delegation. The same accountability should be extended to legislators for their role in the creation of our new federal farm program. We should thank those legislators who supported our efforts. We should also thank President Bush and his administration for defending our farm policy from criticism both foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, there are those who now seek to weaken an already severely depressed agricultural economy by continuing to criticize the recently enacted farm program. Regrettably, much of the anti-farm bill rhetoric is eroding support for other issues important to agriculture. Final passage of these legislative efforts is crucial to our future by building new uses and markets for our commodities.

Help Tell Your Story

We farm families must speak out. We definitely need to thank those who understand agriculture's special circumstances, encourage them to continue to build a stronger industry that ultimately builds a stronger America, and pledge our support for their efforts in the future. To get the attention of the others, we must become more vocal and more visible, especially as constituents. Our letters to the editor in our elected representatives hometown newspapers do have an impact in Washington, D.C. We need that impact now, as the 107th Congress winds down with so much legislation affecting agriculture still in the pipeline. Any measures not voted on by the time Congress adjourns will have to start from scratch in the next Congress. Too many farm families cannot wait.

Use the many informational tools provided by Farm Bureau to brush up on the issues. Then, speak up – for your family, your industry and your country.