Commentary: LFB creates effective advocates for Farm Bureau

Issue Date: June 7, 2017
By Lindy Keilson and Ryan Rice
After participating in a Farm Bureau advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., Leadership Farm Bureau class members Ryan Rice and Lindy Keilson, reflect on Farm Bureau’s role as a grassroots organization, supporting federal policies that help farmers and ranchers remain successful.
Photo/Christine Souza

Our Leadership Farm Bureau class had the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C., in May. Speaking on behalf of our members is a great responsibility, and the LFB training sessions leading up to this trip gave us the tools needed to advocate for our fellow Farm Bureau members in California.

Before being a part of this program, most of us had never experienced the chance to meet with elected officials in Sacramento or Washington. The LFB program has been a great opportunity for us to learn how to be more confident on many different levels in a legislative environment. The LFB program does a great job training leaders to take on this important task.

LFB gave us the chance to meet with legislative officials at the state Capitol in Sacramento earlier in the year. When bringing our advocacy to Washington, we have to take a look at the federal perspective, which is often a broader scope.

During our trip to Washington, there were many discussion topics that we engaged in with different people on a federal level. These include: immigration, trade, management of national forests, infrastructure, water storage and other concerns that we have for our farming and ranching members. All of these issues greatly affect farmers and ranchers.

We feel it is crucial for our organization to advocate for agricultural members, especially in D.C. The people who make up the 2017 Leadership Farm Bureau class understand how difficult it can be to take the time to travel the great distance to D.C. to set up meetings and advocate for their concerns. Even people in the LFB program dealt with the challenge of leaving behind their businesses to travel across the country and participate. We are proud to say that CFBF sends leaders back to D.C. throughout the year to advise our legislative officials on how these issues affect California agriculture.

When Farm Bureau comes to the table with issues that pertain to our members, it resonates. During our trip, we split into groups to discuss current issues with as many officials as possible, and were consistent with our messages. We are not just a few voices in the room, but many. We represent California's Farm Bureau membership as a whole. This approach through our united front is what gets the job done.

Building long-term relationships with every elected official and agency is also a big part of CFBF's effectiveness. This year, we met with senators, department heads and a large percentage of the California congressional members in Washington. Keeping the dialogue open and ongoing with these officials is key.

First of all, we wanted to remind them that many issues they are dealing with affect agriculture. They might not think to factor that in, and may not realize a specific issue has agriculture in the equation.

We want them to know Farm Bureau is a valuable resource and could answer their questions. We also communicated with our officials about how critical agriculture is to California's economy. This encompasses farm product processing, the agricultural supply community, farm labor, retail markets, shipping and export, and many other facets. It is also extremely important because California agriculture is our food and a life source as well.

On our Washington trip, our leadership class attained an extreme amount of knowledge and understanding on how the legislative processes work. We gained relationships with officials, staff members and elected leaders at our nation's capital that would never have been possible without California Farm Bureau. This in turn will give us greater confidence in the future on how to better speak on behalf of Farm Bureau members and advocate on the issues that are constantly challenging us in agriculture.

A large part of the success CFBF has experienced is due to the approach that the organization has taken on issues for its members. The united front made up of a very diversified group of agricultural producers is also key to our success. This is made possible because of our history of being a grassroots organization.

The California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting is a prime example. This is where we update our policies through our county delegate session. We update policies based on principles and values we think will benefit our members as a whole. This in turn should bring a confident feeling to our members that the leaders of the CFBF organization are moving forward with what our members believe should be done.

California Farm Bureau's strength is in its members, leaders and staff. We are very appreciative of the hard work and dedication of our members, staff and leaders of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Because of our members, our organization continues to give us this valuable experience of the LFB program. The Leadership Farm Bureau program continues to create future leaders, keeping California agriculture alive and well.

(Lindy Keilson is membership and marketing coordinator for the Mendocino County Farm Bureau and Ryan Rice is president of the Humboldt County Farm Bureau. Both are membrers of the 2017 class of Leadership Farm Bureau.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.