I like to bust myths here on the ol’ blog.
From the so-called dangers associated with GMOs to ethanol production, regulations, animal welfare and the often misquoted study that speaks of environmental degradation and ozone depletion associated with livestock production, I’ve covered it. But a friend of mine brought to my attention there’s one myth I haven’t done much to address: the Farm Bureau myth.
In other words, the often repeated myth that the Farm Bureau, both on the national and state level, is just a shill for ‘big ag,’ lobbying for the interests of enormous corporations rather than the farmers that make up the membership.
So, if the Illinois Farm Bureau isn’t a shill for big ag, what exactly is it? And what does it do?
For starters, the crowd accusing the Illinois Farm Bureau of being a lobbyist group for ‘industrial agriculture’ is partially correct. The Illinois Farm Bureau does devote some of its resources to lobbying, both on the state an national level. Where shill-crying crowd goes astray is the ‘big ag’ or ‘industrial agriculture’ part of the equation.
Trust me when I say that companies like Monsanto or Tyson or any other seed or food company have enough liquidity to pay for their own lobbyists, and certainly don’t need us to take care of that for them. Instead, when the Illinois Farm Bureau is talking with Congressmen and Senators, we’re doing it on behalf of our members. Illinois Farm Bureau has contacted state and national elected officials to talk about everything from GMOs, water quality and regulations, to the farm bill, animal care and free trade.
What’s more, we ask our members to do the same:
Sometimes our stance on an issue may fall in line with an agricultural company, but that doesn’t mean we’re on their payroll.
And here’s the thing: it’s Illinois Farm Bureau members who direct lobbying efforts, set priority issues and even direct staff on how to work with the media and consumers.
Each December, at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting, members of the organization gather together and vote on policy and priorities for the coming year.
From education, energy and national affairs, to transportation, marketing and commodity programs and government finance, and everything in between, our members review current policy and vote to keep it the same or amend it. They also introduce new resolutions based on current events or legislation and vote on whether they should be included in the policy resolutions for the coming year.
Once those resolutions are finalized at the end of the meeting, it’s up to Illinois Farm Bureau staff to make sure that our activities, lobbying and outreach match what was voted on by the members.
But lobbying isn’t the only thing the Illinois Farm Bureau does. We also work with farmers to answer consumers’ questions about farming, work with the media to provide sources and information for agricultural stories, provide legal advice and information for farmers who need it, fund scholarships and agricultural education initiatives and even develop advertising and social media campaigns — all for our more than 82,000 farmer members.