fb - voice of agriculture
May 2003

Farm Bureau Thrives Through Loyalty To Members

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

Whether or not you watch much television, by now almost everyone has probably seen at least some of the "reality" shows filling up the primetime television schedule, including the one that started it all - "Survivor."

People who've watched even one episode have witnessed contestants switch their loyalties faster than you can say, "outwit, outlast, outplay." Alliances are formed and broken, usually several times in just one show. In this every-person-for-themselves game, strategy wins out over commitment. The prize wins out over integrity. Being the sole survivor wins out over everything.

A Different Strategy

In sharp contrast to the willy-nilly loyalty schemes survivor contestants employ, your Farm Bureau operates with a much different game plan. Since its beginning more than 80 years ago, Farm Bureau's loyalty has always been to our members. When we are engaged in the public policy arena, we judge our progress by making strides that benefit America's farm and ranch families.

While some public policy positions are more intense and more emotional than others, we are always bound by the policies that you write. Never are those policies, or the trust you place in us, sold out for the sake of a political favor or a short-term gain.

On occasion, folks try to analyze and label our nonpartisan public policy positions and actions. This is especially true when a stance we take runs counter to that of a "traditional" ally.

Some analysts try too hard to paint Farm Bureau into philosophical corners, claiming that we no longer function in the way to which they've grown accustomed. Upon closer examination, they would realize nothing is further from the truth. Rather than blindly follow an expedient policy course, we hold true to the policy adopted by our members. That is all that really matters, and, unlike Survivor contestants, we will not sacrifice our principle for the sake of popularity or expediency.

Working With All

Our goal is to work cooperatively with all political parties, all branches of government and all decision makers to implement the policy positions approved by Farm Bureau members.

The Bush administration and our congressional leaders are valued and vital supporters of America's farmers and ranchers. Their words and actions repeatedly prove that point. We appreciate their support, but we also appreciate their understanding when our policy positions are less than totally compliant with their legislative or policy goals. Regardless, we will continue to tread a path to their doors because we know just how important they are.

When we agree with them on an issue, we are confident that all our nation's decision makers know that Farm Bureau is the truest ally they can have. But they also understand that we have never supported a policy when that position was detrimental to our farm and ranch families.

For example, Farm Bureau recently took an aggressive stance to stop cuts that had been proposed to the farm program. This stance did not mean Farm Bureau was against fiscal responsibility. Rather, it was in response to a priority issue voted on and supported by the organization's voting delegates at our 2003 annual meeting. As an organization, we held to that policy. We follow the policies established through our policy development process.

Simple Reality

So while others may not always understand Farm Bureau's positions on a particular issue, it really is quite basic. Whether at the county, state or national level, Farm Bureaus across the nation have always been loyal to the foundation of our organization - our grassroots members. We attempt to establish and work with allies - whether organizations, political leaders, or others - whom we feel can help us implement our policy positions.

At the end of the day, however, it is our grassroots members - the farm and ranch families we serve - who remain our focus. The voices of Farm Bureau's people make a difference. In fact, they determine our policies. And, helping those grassroots members survive is Farm Bureau's ultimate mission.