fb - voice of agriculture
June 2003

Consensus Brings Positive Results for All

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

I am thankful every day for Farm Bureau's policy development process, our system of constructive debate, and, in those very few instances when, for one reason or another, everyone can't see completely eye-to-eye, a formal method of agreeing to disagree.

During this time of year, when many states are kicking off their policy development programs, it's good to remember that the founders of our organization really knew what they were doing.

Even during our most contentious debates within the Farm Bureau family, I am proud to say we never act like bickering siblings in the backseat of a family car. Road trips bring out the worst in siblings, and once the trouble starts, the win-at-all-costs mentality usually escalates, until a parent is forced to intervene. Typically there are no winners, including the parents.

Constructive Debate

Thankfully, Farm Bureau is built on a much more constructive model for resolving issues and establishing policies that meet our mission of improving the bottom line and quality of life for all our members. Rather than hanging on to the fight until individuals "win," or until someone has to "intervene," our policy development process focuses on moving the debate to a consensus that will result in the most benefit for everyone.

As the nation's largest general farm organization, Farm Bureau represents all our farm and ranch member families. Whether an apple grower in Washington, a pork producer in North Carolina, a cattle producer in Nebraska, a corn grower in Illinois or, yes, even a rice farmer in Texas, our organization strives to develop public policy positions that benefit all of our diverse members. As a result, the entire agricultural industry benefits.

Certainly there are issues that become more contentious than others. In fact, right now our members across the nation are grappling with what to do about dairy policy, packer ownership and country-of-origin labeling. There are no easy answers, but Farm Bureau members are dedicated to finding the best answers.

Results Hinge on Participation

Finding those answers depends on the commitment of countless Farm Bureau volunteers and staff working through the issues. The more people involved in the process, the more ideas are brought to the table. The more ideas brought to the table, the better the chance the most positive consensus can be found.

County and state Farm Bureaus across the nation are setting the table now as they begin the policy development process. It's an important process since every national and state Farm Bureau policy originates from the grassroots level. Ours is truly a member-directed organization where each individual member at the county Farm Bureau level can make a difference.

I encourage and invite all Farm Bureau voting members to pull up a chair and let your voices be heard. For it is all your voices that allow the American Farm Bureau Federation to then be the true "Voice of Agriculture." I'm confident you will come away from participating in our policy development process feeling like a winner.