How can I have an impact on ag issues that affect my farm and daily life? I’m just one voice.
I was blessed with the opportunity to serve on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s state Policy Development (PD) committee. Through a simple willingness to serve, I learned that one voice in Farm Bureau truly can be heard. Although “policy development” may be an intimidating phrase, as it was to me, I quickly learned that it is amazingly simple, yet serves as a great tool for you and me.
Early last spring, I was asked by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau if I would be willing to serve a two-year-term on the state Policy Development committee. A total of three meetings throughout the year were held. After agreeing, I served with 11 volunteer members. The members came from all areas of the state, and represented a diverse cross-section of the agricultural industry…from organic to conventional, custom operators, dairy, beef and crop producers, retired and young, large and small farms, and others with niche market experience. One of my fears when I agreed was that I don’t know enough about various issues. However, because of the make-up of the committee, I was confident that I could contribute, using my own knowledge and experiences, and drawing upon others that I meet and network with around our community, without needing to know everything.
In April, we began the committee work. Our first meeting was to identify a few key issues that we saw as a challenge to our industry. Those five issues were then tagged as “backgrounder issues,” and our devoted state Farm Bureau staff set out to research those issues. The backgrounders are available to all members on the WFBF website (under legislation). These issues are chosen based on timeliness and the impact that they have on farms. The backgrounders help “stir the pot” so to speak, getting our members at the local level thinking about possible resolutions that they can send to their respective counties, during the resolution process that takes place at annual meetings across the state. Resolutions are certainly not limited to the backgrounder issues. Any rural or agricultural issue is fair game!
So here’s where you and I come in…if you are aware of an issue that needs to be addressed on the local, state or national level, contact a county Farm Bureau board of director, and write down a simple statement that would help to resolve the issue (this is called a resolution.) Whether it’s an issue with livestock, education, energy, hunting and wildlife, health and safety, land use, natural resources, taxation, transportation, farm finance, general government, or labor…Farm Bureau members can voice their opinion and help get the ball rolling. These resolutions are then discussed at county annual meetings. There, we work together to polish the wording, and then vote on county resolutions.
Once the resolutions make it to the state Policy Development committee (568 resolutions were sent to the PD committee last year), we discuss each resolution and determine the practicality, necessity, and value of the resolutions. At the end of our two-day meeting in November, the state staff goes to work creating a booklet of our proposed state and federal Farm Bureau policy.
Next is the state Annual Meeting in early December. At this final step, members are given a final opportunity to bring an issue back to the voting delegates (if a resolution didn’t make it through the state PD committee). This important step allows individual delegates to speak to an issue and convince the entire delegate body that the resolution is necessary. See, sometimes an issue in northern Wisconsin is important, but those in southern Wisconsin are not aware of the situation or impact that it’s having on our farmers up north. Again, this allows for the individual voice to be heard.
Finally, our delegate body has the responsibility to vote on the policy for the coming year. This is the policy that our state Board of Directors and lobbyists use to guide their efforts. Our Farm Bureau legislative staff is second to none. If you listen to any ag radio, read any farm publications, or search for agricultural information online, you will see the value that industry officials and legislators place on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s vast knowledge. It is a highly-respected organization, and the best part…it is YOUR organization.
I challenge you to think about an issue that you would like to see addressed. Talk to your neighbors or look on your own farm. Then contact a county board member from your county. We will help you to voice your concerns. Allow your board of directors and state staff to serve you. We need active members who are willing to search for simple solutions within our complex industry…might that be you?
Dawn Powell is a Monroe County Farm Bureau board member. She and her husband, Chad, have a small dairy, 50 beef cows along with a custom cropping business. They are grateful for their busy days that they share with their seven children.