By Cyndie Shearing
The American Farm Bureau has awarded grants of $5,000 each to six state Farm Bureaus for new programs through its recently established Policy Initiative Fund. State Farm Bureaus with fewer than 25,000 members were eligible to apply for funding of up to $5,000 for public policy-related projects. Half of the funding will be released in June, with final disbursement slated for the fourth quarter of the year provided final reports on the completed projects are received, reviewed and accepted by Nov. 30.
AFBF’s board of directors approved the new fund as part of its fiscal year 2020 budget. Four state Farm Bureaus – Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Utah – each contributed $1,000 to grow the initial seed money for the fund.
“The goal of this program is to advance AFBF’s board-approved strategic policy issues by supporting smaller states in conducting meaningful projects,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We look forward to seeing the results of these state-driven initiatives, which will strengthen the Voice of Agriculture and Farm Bureau,” he added.
Summaries of state Farm Bureau programs selected as part of the program’s first round of funding are below.
Alaska Farm Bureau
Alaska Farm Bureau is partnering with other organizations to launch a summer-fall campaign, Save Our Sheep, to raise awareness of over-regulation of farming in the state and the need for non-regulatory responses to concerns voiced by representatives of anti-agriculture activist groups.
Maine Farm Bureau
Maine Farm Bureau’s newly formed Meat and Poultry Committee aims to define and understand the state’s processing industry, including but not limited to product leaving and entering the state, regulation, pricing, best practices, quantity and quality. Information gleaned will be used to help legislators and non-farming consumers grow in their understanding about this vital sector of agriculture in the state.
Nevada Farm Bureau
Nevada Farm Bureau plans to host a fall trip to Washington, D.C., with dairy, range sheep and row crop farmers who will meet with Nevada’s congressional delegation and federal agency representatives. Discussions will focus on the need for agricultural labor reform and overall regulatory reform.
New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau
New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau will partner with New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service to offer regional trainings designed to connect those in agriculture with a network of individuals who can provide mental health assistance. Participants will learn how to communicate with and provide support to farming and ranching families experiencing stress.
South Dakota Farm Bureau
South Dakota Farm Bureau will develop and deliver high-quality content to members on the fundamentals and current state of livestock markets. SDFB has already seen great success hosting online forums with experts in markets and policy and will expand those offerings and explore other ways to engage members and legislative leaders on this topic, culminating in a policy discussion at state convention.
Vermont Farm Bureau
Vermont Farm Bureau will use the grant to partially fund activities focused on engaging with current members on recent proposals to close rural state college campuses (including the campus that houses significant agricultural programs) by partnering with students, local leaders and educators. Growing membership by building capacity for Farm Bureau to influence future policy outcomes at the local and state level will also be emphasized.
Cyndie Shearing is director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.