When this Rural Route is delivered to you, we will be in the midst of policy development season. Many districts and counties have their policy development meetings scheduled with some that have already taken place. As a grassroots membership organization, the policy initiatives that direct the work of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation come from county Farm Bureau members like you. This process is the backbone of our organization and gives members a voice by either bringing forward resolutions or in partaking in the voting process.
The first step is for a county Farm Bureau member to bring forward a resolution that includes suggested changes or new policy to be added. The county must then vote on that resolution. All resolutions that are passed on the county level are then sent to the state Policy Development Committee.
The state committee is made up of 14 members. There is one representative from each of the nine Farm Bureau districts as well as one member each from the Dairy, Young Farmer and Agriculturist, Promotion and Education and the Volunteers for Agriculture committees. As WFBF Vice President, I round out the committee and serve as the chairperson.
The state Policy Development Committee will meet in early November to review resolutions submitted from the county Farm Bureaus. During this process, they will work to identify which section those items are most relevant within the WFBF policy book. This book will go out in draft form to those serving as voting delegates at the upcoming WFBF Annual Meeting for review.
During the business session at our annual meeting, these voting delegates will then choose to leave the changes in place or discuss updates that they feel are better suited. After each policy item is debated, a vote is taken to determine whether a majority of delegates support the proposal.
When the delegate session adjourns, the WFBF policy book is finalized for that year. This policy book is what will guide the WFBF Board of Directors and staff as they advocate for our members on the local and state levels.
The process continues with WFBF submitting federal policy items to AFBF to be debated at their annual convention. In a similar fashion, the delegates will debate and approve policy that will guide AFBF leadership and staff.
As part of AFBF, you may think that WFBF aligns with all national policy positions passed at the AFBF Annual Convention. For the most part, this is the case but there are times that due to differing situations across the country that a state Farm Bureau has a different policy position than AFBF. This doesn’t happen very often, but there is a process in place where state Farm Bureaus can ‘dissent’ from AFBF policy if deemed necessary. This allows us to remain a grassroots organization the gives directives from the local level up to the federal level, not the other way around.
Written out like this, the process seems simple and for the most part it is, but it takes many hours behind the scenes in debating and compiling information to determine what our organization stands for.
I am personally passionate about the policy development process because it is what makes our organization strong. We represent more than 47,000 members across the state who all have different wants and needs. We aren’t a commodity group, so our broad reach across all of agriculture would make it difficult for staff or state board members to determine where to stand on policy items. Our grassroots policy development process is a fair way for diverse voices and experiences to be shared, debated and considered.
As we head into the heart of policy development season, I urge you to be present at your county or district policy development meetings and let your voice be heard. We are a membership organization led by our county members. Your voice is vital to the success of our organization not just in the short-term, but for many years to come.
Now is the time to share your voice.
Dave Daniels serves as the District 1 Director on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors. Daniels is one of the owners of Mighty Grand Dairy, LLC in Kenosha County.