Farm Bureau constantly talks about grassroots involvement of members who get involved because they believe Farm Bureau’s efforts legislatively, judicially and bureaucratically make a difference for the well-being of farmers and the consumers who enjoy the food they grow. We don’t always agree, but we understand consensus works. As the number of farmers has dwindled, gathering many voices as one is the best way to be heard. Over the past century, Farm Bureau has found its collective voice and a common ground on big issues.
In December, Missouri Farm Bureau held its annual meeting to debate and approve policies for 2017. American Farm Bureau will follow suit in January to do the same at a national level. It is an annual ritual. At both meetings, members come to an agreement on hundreds of policy positions. There are disagreements and squabbles, but all understand the majority opinion is heard the loudest. The theme at the state meeting was appropriate for the process: Facing the Issues. Together, farmers and ranchers make real change through the tool known as Farm Bureau.
In north-central Missouri, Marilyn O’Bannon didn’t even know about a proposed electrical line that could slice her farm in half. She found out from the county Farm Bureau president. Together, with other landowners, she continues to oppose the Grain Belt Express going through northern Missouri. With Farm Bureau’s involvement, the project was put on hold.
Dustin and Austin Stanton are two young entrepreneurs that run a thriving egg-laying business. Their success has drawn the attention of federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. Austin says many different inspectors have come out to their farm, each with their own interpretation of regulations. No business can operate under such a cloud of uncertainty. During a first visit to the Stanton farm, one inspector asked where the chickens were as the birds pecked at her shoes.
A rancher in the southern part of the state worries about activists who want to tell her how to raise her cattle. She has battled her own obstacles to care for her cow/calf herd and understands better than any activist how to care for her animals.
The weight of regulatory red tape, the worries of keeping the family farm whole and keeping at bay radical animal rights activists are real issues farmers and ranchers face daily. They can’t fight these battles alone, but they can and do decide how to confront them as members of Missouri Farm Bureau. Together, they utilize the expert staff at Farm Bureau to make sure their voice cuts through the red tape and rhetoric. It is a good system. Best of all, it works.
Chris Fennewald, of Jefferson City, Mo. is editor for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization