Keeping Farm Bureau’s Voice Loud and Clear

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North Carolina Farm Bureau meets different needs for a variety of people. For our hundreds of thousands of policyholders, we are their insurance company. To the tens of thousands of our farmer members, we are an advocate for agriculture in Raleigh and in Washington, D.C.  And still for others, we help develop their leadership skills, provide educational assistance and even legal advice. Farm Bureau is all of these things—and more.
While the complexity of Farm Bureau means many folks don’t understand exactly how we’re organized, they have also developed an appreciation and respect for how we conduct business.

To fulfill our responsibility as the Voice of Agriculture® in North Carolina, we must use that voice in many ways. But without our county leaders, Farm Bureau is nothing but an empty, echoing voice. Fortunately, that was not the case in 2012.

With the support of our members, we engaged in the discussions and supported the decisions made in a broad series of legislative and regulatory issues, including the environment, water, energy, transportation, tax policy, land use and food safety.

We emerged as a premier leader in the national debate on immigration reform, which has a profound impact on the availability of farm labor, and ultimately, the cost and availability of food. This federal issue must be resolved by the new Congress as we confront challenges from shortages of farm workers, increased enforcement and possible legislative actions by our own General Assembly. Our need for affordable and legal labor in our diverse farm state makes this a top Farm Bureau priority in 2013.

In addition to working with the state’s Congressional delegation on estate tax and immigration reform, we also look forward to working with North Carolina’s new governor, his administration, and a new legislature. Our state faces significant challenges, and Farm Bureau’s voice will be clear in our role of ensuring that farmers’ interests are represented.

Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization. Accordingly, our county Farm Bureaus remain highly active. I saw first-hand the level of commitment on the part of our volunteer leaders. They engaged in a variety of activities and programs that promoted agriculture and raised the visibility of Farm Bureau. County Farm Bureaus hosted member appreciation days; awarded grants and scholarships; hosted Farm-City Week events; promoted Ag in the Classroom; provided financial support to livestock shows, local fire departments, farmers markets, and fairs; and held safety events.

While the local level is where Farm Bureau lives and breathes, our influence is felt nationally, as well. North Carolina Farm Bureau is recognized as a leader within American Farm Bureau, which is approaching its 100th anniversary. As the national landscape is changing, leadership at American Farm Bureau is concerned with the organization’s future relevance. The Centennial Development Project was launched in 2012 to determine how AFB can position itself to best represent farming for the next 100 years.

As a part of that effort, North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors took a close and honest look at our organization. As challenges were identified, it became clear that we must be proactive when it comes to remaining relevant as a general farm organization. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels or take Farm Bureau for granted.

Relevancy is the biggest word I know for an organization operating in changing times. We must recruit and develop young leadership for the future. We must constantly ask ourselves, “is this program, is this effort, really what our members want?”

The name Farm Bureau is respected. If that is to continue, we must remain vigilant. Our state will change, the issues will change and the Farm Bureau member will change. The need for an advocate to represent farmers with a united voice, however, will not change.

“One Farm Bureau—One Mission” is not just a catchy phrase for members, employees and our agency force, but a commitment to maintaining and growing the strength and the relevancy of Farm Bureau in North Carolina.

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