Policy resolutions really are generated at the local level in Farm Bureau.
Our county has a policy development committee which meets several times to
revise the previous year's resolutions and draft new resolutions. They
solicit input from the membership during this process and hold a policy
development meeting/dinner to finalize resolutions prior to the county
annual meeting. Local, state, and national resolutions are voted on at the
county annual meeting with approved state and federal policies forwarded to
One big question about this process--which, unfortunately, I cannot answer
definitively--is where county farm bureau members come up with their
resolutions in the first place. I can tell you that I receive a four-page
newspaper every week from the American Farm Bureau Federation. This paper
contains "news" about our federal government, commentary from staff members
and Dean Kleckner, President of the AFBF, and congressional voting records
on issues important to FB. I also get materials from the state FB several
times per month. A field representative from the state FB attends every
county board meeting but generally spends most of his time reporting on
membership figures rather than policy issues.
I am afraid that a fair number of the resolutions are regurgitated bits of
the party line, interspersed with a few wacky ideas which somebody wanted to
put in the official record. My perception is that the state FB includes the
wacky ideas in their platform but does not act upon them. As a state
staffer once told me, "No legislators ever come and ask what the Farm
Bureau's position is on gays in the military."
Like many organizations, Farm Bureau has its faults and foibles. I disagree
with many things in the FB platform but I really like my fellow members in
the county and state. I found it very discouraging to read the messages
written by the gentleman from the Environmental Working Group, as he
reinforces the idea many people have out here that environmentalists neither
know nor care much about farmers and their interests.
I am very glad we are fortunate enough to have a forum in which to discuss
these issues and look forward to reading more comments!
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems