Tag Archives: American Farm Bureau

It’s a bit ironic that Sears is teetering on verge of liquidation and the American Farm Bureau Federation is still going strong after 100 years. In the early days of the Farm Bureau movement, Julius Rosenwald, president and later chairman of Sears, made financial grants to counties willing to hire an agricultural agent. This helped lead to the growth of county Farm Bureaus.

When the American Farm Bureau Federation was formed in Chicago in 1919, its mission was to promote, protect and represent farmers by coordinating the work of state Farm Bureaus. One reason for its success is its impeccable timing. A year earlier the nation was in the grips of the worst flu pandemic in history. Prior to that was World War 1, so 1919 was the first year farmers could really get together on a national organization. The automobile and telephone were coming on and that meant farmers were less isolated and more able to join together.

The American Farm Bureau met an immediate need. Agriculture was the nation’s biggest business, but it had no voice or seat at the table with the major economic interests of the day—business, manufacturing, railroads and labor.

Throughout its history the American Farm Bureau Federation had outstanding leaders. The quality of leadership at all levels is a key reason for Farm Bureau’s growth and success.

Edward A. O’Neal of Alabama was AFBF president during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. Farm Bureau history almost ended there. It was the worst of hard times for agriculture. But O’Neal had the ear of the newly elected U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt. He convinced Roosevelt that drastic action was needed and the result was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the first farm bill. Farm Bureau action helped end the Great Depression.

Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization and that is another reason for its success. It was organized first at the county level. State Farm Bureaus and the American Farm Bureau followed.  Shortly after AFBF set up shop in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress, the “Farm Bloc” was formed. This bipartisan group of senators and representatives passed farm legislation that had been bottled up for years. Farm Bureau pioneered grassroots lobbying and still uses this strategy effectively today.

Farm Bureau also has been the voice of reason over the years. During the farm credit crisis of the 1980s the American Farm Bureau was criticized because some farmers wanted the voice of agriculture to be a shout. But the organization never subscribed to tractorcade protests and strikes to get its way. During the crisis, Farm Bureau did what it does best: find a solution to the problem. The result was a debt restructuring program that eventually helped those farmers who could be saved from bankruptcy.

From its early years, Farm Bureau has always been inclusive of women and young people. The same year the amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified, 1920, the American Farm Bureau formed a women’s committee, and two women were featured speakers during the general session of its annual convention. Farm Bureau started a rural youth program in the 1940s that is a major success today. Now called the Young Farmers & Ranchers program, it focuses on developing farm and community leaders for the future.

Throughout its history the American Farm Bureau has been incredibly innovative. It was most likely the first organization to produce its own motion pictures. These silent films were often shot on location and then edited in Chicago, which preceded Hollywood as a film capital. The films were used for recruitment and also addressed topics like fire safety.

As early as 1933, AFBF was investigating the possibilities of producing alcohol motor fuel from corn and other farm commodities. In the 1950s it focused on expanding world trade. A Farm Bureau staffer who was an army officer in charge of food distribution in Europe after the war devised a plan to send badly needed surplus farm products overseas. Public Law 480, better known as Food for Peace, became the most important foreign food assistance program ever undertaken by the government.

The American Farm Bureau also facilitated the growth of state Farm Bureau insurance companies that served the needs of farm families with inexpensive insurance products. In 1948, Farm Bureau fire and casualty companies along with AFBF formed a national reinsurance company, American Agricultural Insurance Company, to backstop large insurance risks. Insurance products tailored to rural needs played a significant role in the growth of Farm Bureau membership.

Finally, the American Farm Bureau has been successful because it is respected worldwide and represents the strong values and beliefs of rural America—freedom, faith in God and country, hard work, perseverance and more. One of its strongest beliefs is the freedom to own private property. Farm Bureau has been a strong defender of property rights because without it, American agriculture as we know it would not exist.

Unfortunately for Sears, the retail marketplace may no longer need it, despite the many years it served American families so well. But the American Farm Bureau is still vitally needed as it starts its second century.

U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today introduced a resolution recognizing the 100th anniversary of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and celebrating their long history representing farmers across the United States.

 

“For a century, American Farm Bureau has advocated and fought for agriculture and rural America,” said Sen. Moran. “This resolution honors AFBF and the countless contributions they and their over six million member families in all 50 states have had on our nation’s producers. Across the country, generations of Farm Bureau members contribute to production agriculture, give back to their communities and lead local organizations. I’m grateful to have Farm Bureau as a close partner in my efforts to strengthen rural economies, open markets for agricultural goods, advance rural 5G and digital infrastructure and inspire the next generation of ag leaders in Kansas and across the country.”

 

“For 100 years, the American Farm Bureau Federation has been a powerful voice for farmers and ranchers across America. Its steadfast commitment to supporting farm families is clear whenever I speak with AFBF representatives,” said Sen. Durbin. “I’m pleased to join my colleagues to honor the Farm Bureau during its centennial year, and I’ll remain committed to pushing for Illinois agricultural priorities that strengthen the economy and rural communities across the state.”

 

The legislation is authored by Sens. Moran and Durbin and is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 48 Senators including Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), James Lankford (R-Okla), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Coming off one of the worst years that we’ve ever had, knowing that the farm bill had been passed by the end of December was a relief that we weren’t expecting. Just before Christmas, we were still in the process of harvest, for a crop that we weren’t sure was worth the trip up and down the field. Dealing with natural disasters interfering with our progress is one thing – it’s another when it’s man-made interruptions that also impact our family farms.

What do I see as promising in the new farm bill? The opportunities for growth, trade and individualization within our farming businesses. I have four boys who are growing up before my eyes. They each have their own personalities, hopes, dreams and ideas about what their future may look like and now I can actually see some of that taking shape. I see potential and opportunity. Hemp? Hops? Barley? Vegetables? Some of the ideas that they have now look like they could become realities – with the ability to insure some of those crops that weren’t insurable before.

My community is excited for the potential of being able to amp up some of our local markets. We have a neighbor who raises hydroponic lettuce. For rural North Dakota, that’s huge. We can have local lettuce year-round. It’s an opportunity that, if replicated, can open many doors. But that can’t be done without support.

After the year we had in 2018, it’s difficult to want to encourage my children to continue the farming legacy we have worked generations to build. The hard work and long hours are difficult to justify when you miss out on big moments and have to defend your way of life to those who barely appreciate what you do, let alone understand it. And yet, the passing of this farm bill – following a year of perfect storms, during which our farms were hit from all sides by bad weather, tariffs, trade uncertainty, regulations, volatile markets and declining prices – gave me a glimmer of hope. Two sides of a very different coin were able to come together and agree that agriculture – and food – was important enough to not play games any longer. Perhaps that’s the lesson for all of us. Our crops will be eligible for insurance. In fact, more crops than ever before will be eligible for insurance. If we have another year like 2018, it will be a major determining factor in whether or not our family is able to continue farming for another year.

In a perfect world, my farm would not need a farm bill. In a perfect world, the markets would be open, prices would be fair and responsive to conditions and my day-to-day activities would consist of focusing on the crops that we love to raise. But if there is one thing that farming and ranching has taught me – it’s that a perfect world doesn’t exist. We have to play the hand we’re dealt and make the best of what we have. We also plan for a better tomorrow and do whatever we can to make sure that the next generation understands the importance of the lessons we have learned and that science and nature can work in harmony.

We do not look to the farm bill as an answer to the problems facing agriculture. Yet, with so many outside interferences that interrupt our day-to-day activities, there needs to be something in place that allows us a chance to be successful when we are good stewards of the land…and allows us to fail when we are not. I hope to one day look back on our farm and be able to see the future we have built taking shape. And for the first time in a long time, I can actually see that future. For that, I am thankful.