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Inside Agriculture’s Big Tent

Viewpoints / Focus on Agriculture February 3, 2021

Credit: Paul VanDerWerf//CC BY 2.0 

By Glenn Brunkow @Brunkow

We completed the American Farm Bureau Federation’s102nd Convention virtually in January. It went as well as it could have, but there were a few things that were a little wonky. By the way, wonky is my new favorite pandemic word and really is a good descriptor of most of what has happened because of the pandemic. But I digress, the annual meeting and convention was different, but it did bring a certain amount of normalcy in a time that is anything but normal.

It was good to hear debate on issues surfaced by our members from across the United States. I find these debates fascinating. I know, I am weird that way but often I learn about issues facing different regions I did not know about before. I also found out different regions can view the same issue very differently, and they may even be on opposite sides of the same issue. It can lead to a lot of debate and discussion, but that is what makes Farm Bureau so great.

We are an organization that thrives on relationships.

I have heard Farm Bureau described as a “big tent” organization, and I think that is a great way to describe it. It would be my wish that all of you could attend an AFBF convention so you could get a taste of all the types of ag, viewpoints and opinions we represent. Every commodity and method of production has a place at the table. All the policy in our book comes from grassroots members in counties in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Every piece of policy we have at the state or national level started in a county board meeting somewhere, and that is something to be proud of.

That is why I say listening to the debate and discussion from the business meeting made things seem just a little more normal. I must say my seat was more comfortable, the coffee was much better and cheaper but watching it all by myself was not right and is something I hope we never do again. However, I could imagine myself back in that crowded convention room listening to the meeting, and that’s a good thing.

We are an organization that thrives on relationships, and I miss the conversations we did not have at our usual meetings. We have a lot of catching up to do when this is all over and we return to normal.

Virtually is not how we like or prefer to get our work done, but as all of us in agriculture know, the work must be done. I am proud of the way that we adapted and overcame the challenges this pandemic threw our way. I think we made the best out of a bad situation, and I applaud all who made it happen. It was not easy or natural, but we pulled it off. Until we beat this virus, and I know we will, we will have to embrace the new virtual normal even if it is a bit wonky.

Glenn Brunkow is a farmer and Farm Bureau leader in Kansas. This column was originally published as a Kansas Farm Bureau Insights column.

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