The Future of North Carolina Farm Bureau

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Larry Wooten is the President of North Carolina Farm BureauFarm Bureau’s roots run deep in North Carolina, stretching back to 1936.

In that year, 9 percent of the state’s population was farmers. There was no question who would speak for those farmers. They voiced their concerns through their newly organized Farm Bureau.

But a wise Greek philosopher once warned, “The only constant is change.”

Today, North Carolina’s farming community represents less than 1 percent of the state’s population. North Carolina’s population is currently increasing at the rate of 100,000 persons per year. That’s nearly 2,000 people per week or 274 per day.

These new neighbors are not farmers. They are, however, changing the political and economic landscapes. The demand for land, for example, has increased to the point where North Carolina is currently losing farmland at faster than the national rate. This phenomenon is occurring in urban areas and in the rural communities surrounding our metropolitan areas.

The majority of the members of the North Carolina General Assembly are at least several generations removed from any agricultural experience. Even with our best efforts, there is less understanding of the importance of agriculture to our state and national economies. Without question, changes within the state require changes within Farm Bureau.

Who is going to speak for Farm Bureau in the future?

During 2013, we held a series of 10 district meetings with county Farm Bureau leaders across North Carolina. At each meeting, we took time to discuss the future of our organization. Without exception, our members emphatically said farmers must provide the leadership and serve as the voices of Farm Bureau. I came away from those meetings with a clear understanding – we must zealously protect the farmers’ right to speak through the unified voice of Farm Bureau.

Like many organizations, Farm Bureau has recognized that the models of the 1940s, the 1970s and even the 1990s do not work in today’s world.

During 2000, our organization reviewed its structure. We deliberately chose to study the situation, involve all the stakeholders, and then make well-thought-out decisions, that positioned Farm Bureau to move to the next level.

In other words, we anticipated the need for change before it was demanded of us. We’ve made similar changes in other areas, as well. Even though Farm Bureau is a powerful organization, we realize the value of working cooperatively with groups having analogous goals. We will continue to follow this path of proactive forethought during 2014 and beyond.

– Larry Wooten, NCFB President

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