Grassroots structure at work: National legal strategy policy submittal rises from Illinois county Farm Bureau

Approved by AFBF, the resolution idea generated by Pike-Scott Farm Bureau aims to more aggressively defend farmers' interests in court.

The American Farm Bureau Federation Board will provide more information to county Farm Bureaus on AFBF legal activities and how to make financial contributions toward the legal effort. (Photo courtesy of AFBF)

By Deana Stroisch

American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention delegates recommended the AFBF Board of Directors develop a national legal advocacy strategy – an idea conceived in Pike and Scott counties.

The resolution, approved during AFBF’s recent convention in New Orleans, states the strategy “should actively address legal or regulatory actions taken by governments, groups or third-parties that impact our members’ property rights and production agriculture.”

Blake Roderick, executive director of Pike-Scott Farm Bureau, said for years, environmental activists have been using the courts to impose rules and regulations on farmers.

“We think we need to be more bully representing the farmers’ interests in court,” Roderick told FarmWeek.

Illinois delegates, along with Kentucky Farm Bureau, spoke in favor of the resolution.

“We would like to acknowledge and commend AFBF for being a leader in national advocacy in agriculture,” said Mark Reichert, IFB District 10 director. “The legislative arena has been affected by the courts and the old adage of duck, dodge and deflect no longer applies.”

Some state Farm Bureaus worried the resolution duplicates efforts already being done by AFBF. Not so, said IFB Vice President Brian Duncan.

“We can think bigger and do more and maybe form coalitions outside our own circle,” Duncan said. “We’re asking for the same type of leadership in the legal arena with the broadness that we have in the legislative arena. We see the legal arena increasingly being the way our members’ lives are affected.”

Scott Travis of Kentucky Farm Bureau said “we can’t do enough” to fight back.

“You watch the news, read DTN, wherever you get your information, they’re laying down in the street, blocking loads of pigs going up and down the road, these groups,” Travis said. “We’ve got all this stuff attacking us, and it’s tough making a living on the farm. … We need all the help we can get.

After the AFBF convention ended, the AFBF Board discussed the approved resolution and agreed to provide more information to county Farm Bureaus on AFBF legal activities and how to make financial contributions toward the legal effort.

The resolution was one of the first to be approved by the newly merged Pike-Scott organization. Another supporting the use of Design-Build project delivery method was also approved and is now part of national farm policy.

“We talk about Farm Bureau being a grassroots organization, and it truly is,” Roderick said. “These policies are proof.”