Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ohio Farm Bureau's Rocking Annual Meeting!

I wrote this piece on Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting for inclusion in Franklin County Farm Bureau's quarterly newsletter, The Conveyor! Annual Meeting was absolutely fantastic this year! Hope you enjoy reading about the Farm Bureau policy process!

One of the greatest assets of Farm Bureau is its history as a grassroots organization! Farm Bureau was founded by farmers for the benefit of farmers. Over the years, Farm Bureau has welcomed members that are not involved in agriculture, but support the farm community. At Franklin County Farm Bureau we value each of our members! This is YOUR organization, and each member has the opportunity to influence the future of Farm Bureau by participating in policy development!

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation held its 2010 Annual Meeting in Columbus on December 1-3. Franklin County Farm Bureau was fortunate to have an excellent group serving as delegates to the meeting: Barry Conrad, Glen King, Jack Orum, and Jeff Schilling. These gentlemen – dedicated farmers & successful businessmen each – worked to represent the interests of our county during the delegate sessions with representatives from all 87 county Farm Bureaus. (87 counties? Doesn’t Ohio have 88 counties? Yes! Jackson County & Vinton County work together in one organization!)

Annual Meeting is a great opportunity for delegates from the county Farm Bureau organizations to network, share ideas, and discuss the future of Ohio Farm Bureau. This year, delegates had the opportunity to hear presentations on health care, the next Farm Bill, and the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, as well as an address from Dr. Gordon Gee on the future of OSU Extension. Delegates participated in two days of policy work as a voting body, working to craft Ohio Farm Bureau’s agenda for the upcoming year. In addition, representatives to the State Board of Trustees were elected. Franklin County extends its congratulations – and appreciation – to Andra Troyer for her re-election as the Southwest District Women’s Trustee!

While much work is accomplished and great conviviality is enjoyed, Annual Meeting is not the start of the policy process for Ohio Farm Bureau! In fact, the policy development process starts with YOU! Every year, Franklin County Farm Bureau solicits policy proposals from its members that participate in Advisory Councils. What is an Advisory Council? It is one of the best ways to get involved in Farm Bureau and have great fun! Advisory Councils are groups that meet to socialize and discuss issues. In Franklin County we have several councils, ranging from groups that meet for breakfast to groups that meet for Happy Hour or dinner! Most councils meet 8-12 times per year, and discuss suggested topics that might be related to agriculture (livestock care, genetic modification of seeds, environmental stewardship), or might be issues of general concern (school funding, social media, sustainable energy). If you are interested in joining a council or starting your own, contact the Franklin County Farm Bureau office for more information! Then, when advisory councils put together their proposed policy suggestions, you can be a part of the process!

The Policy Action Team takes the policy suggestions from councils, recruits ideas from county governmental leaders at their annual county luncheon, and invites new proposals from individuals at the annual policy development session. Franklin County is fortunate to have Jeff Schilling as our Policy Action Team Leader! Jeff did a fantastic job this past year of leading the team in analyzing suggestions for local, state, and national policy! It is quite a bit of work to look at a variety of proposals and analyze if our county can have an impact on the local level with those suggestions, whether it is for the well-being of the state & nation, and if current policy already exists on these matters. From this point, the Policy Action Team submits proposed policies to the Franklin County Board of Trustees for review. Once the board approves these suggestions, the policies are brought to the membership of Franklin County Farm Bureau at our county Annual Meeting. (Yet another great reason to attend Annual Meeting: delicious food, fellowship with other members, AND the chance to participate in the policy process!)

All 87 county Farm Bureaus then send their policies on to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Just as the county has a committee to offer recommendations, the state also has a policy development committee. I had the pleasure of serving on that committee this year, along with nine other county presidents and representatives from the State Board of Trustees. It is fascinating to read the ideas offered by each county! The Policy Development Committee is divided into subcommittees which focus on certain areas, and I had the opportunity to work on the section that focused on government & tax concerns. The subcommittees analyze proposals from each county on state & federal issues, compare them to current policy, and then offer proposals to the full committee for approval.

In Franklin County, as with other county organizations, we select our delegates to OFBF’s Annual Meeting during our county’s annual meeting. These individuals are provided with copies of the recommended policy suggestions from the Policy Development Committee prior to the state annual meeting. There, delegates vote on the proposals from that committee and offer ideas of their own. Once OFBF approves its state and national policy suggestions, the state president is charged to take those ideas to American Farm Bureau at their annual meeting. Thus, from the suggestions of individual members at the county level, the democratic process of Farm Bureau influences policy decisions all the way to the national level!

Do you have ideas for the future of Farm Bureau? Do you have concerns about policy issues related to agriculture? Are you upset about something? GOOD! Farm Bureau thrives when its members decide to get involved and take action! This is YOUR organization! It flourishes or languishes based on YOUR involvement! Join an advisory council, attend a policy session, volunteer to help with membership, assist with educational events. . . our volunteers are truly treasured! If you are looking for suggestions on getting involved, always feel free to contact me or another member of the Board of Trustees! We look forward to hearing from you!

Katherine M Harrison
Photo Caption: Franklin County Farm Bureau's delegates pose together at Annual Meeting!

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