Engaging young agriculture, YF&R discusses grassroots involvement
Cody – Each year, the Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Young Farmer and Rancher Committee gathers for their annual meeting to discuss the opportunities for involvement offered to young people and WyFB members.
“Our focus this year is the power of grassroots,” said WyFB Young Farmer and Rancher Committee President Raenell Taylor. “Farm Bureau is just that – a true grassroots organization that starts at the ground and works its way up.”
Importance of grassroots
Advocating for agriculture from the grassroots level is growing in importance, commented Taylor.
“As the average age of the American farmer continues to rise, it is up to us – the young farmers and ranchers – to bridge that generational gap,” she explained. “We are so lucky to have available a great grassroots organization like Farm Bureau.”
With grassroots organizations like Farm Bureau available to Wyoming agriculturists, Taylor noted that we can promote our industry.
Marty Tatman, American Farm Bureau’s directory of program development, joined the conference, adding, “It is great to talk about the power of grassroots and how young farmers and ranchers play a role.”
Principles of Farm Bureau
To discover the power of grassroots organizations, Tatman, a Wyoming-native, noted that the organization was founded on several principles that support agriculture.
“Farm Bureau is based on, for and around farmers and agriculture,” he noted. “The other neat aspect to Farm Bureau is that we have two types of membership – for farmers and non-farmer members.”
The organizations that support agriculture are integral in Farm Bureau’s grassroots ability.
“We have right over 6 million family memberships at our last count, and it is a voluntary organization,” Tatman explained. “While we have professional lobbyists, we are not a lobbying organization.”
The organization is also non-partisan and general, representing groups and producers of more than 300 commodities.
“We have found the value and importance of having a variety of program pieces,” Tatman added. “Whether we are talking about health and safety or our Young Farmer and Rancher Program, we have lots of opportunities for our members.”
“We have a much bigger and more valuable voice by working with our community leaders to get things passed,” said Tatman. “We also feel that it is important to be a family organization, because no farm can be successful without the support of the family.”
The next important piece of Farm Bureau is its decentralized structure, said Tatman.
“I like to rally around the decentralized structure and grassroots portion of our organization,” he comments. “Everything comes from the bottom up.”
Working from the ground up
Every Farm Bureau member has the ability to directly impact American Farm Bureau policies, said Tatman, adding that everything from the national organization comes from individuals throughout the country.
“Each county Farm Bureau belongs to the state organization, which belongs to the American Farm Bureau organization, and that is where we see the value of grassroots,” he noted. “It all starts from the individual members, the counties and the states.”
“That is the value and what makes us unique,” Tatman continued. “That is where we have the most power and bang for our buck – in our decentralized structure.”
To amend the policy or add policy, Tatman said, “It starts with the conversations our members have at their county level, who rally support and feed it to the state level.”
After passing at the state level, Tatman added that policy continues to American Farm Bureau, where members vote on those policies that they agree on.
“No matter what we do, no matter what we push for, it is because of our members,” he commented. “It is important that we take advantage of being part of organizations and being heard. We must make sure our voice is heard.”
Senator John Barrasso also visted with WyFB Young Farmer and Rancher members during the event, commenting, “As Mike Enzi says, we get our best ideas at home in Wyoming. I think we are much better as a state delegation if we are walking around listening to folks at home.”
To get involved in the political realm, Barrasso encouraged young people to contact his staff, or the staff of Senator Mike Enzi or Representative Cynthia Lummis, about the important issues.
“We want to stay involved and stay active,” Barrasso continued. “If we look at this country, 100 years ago, one-third of all workers were agriculture related. Today, that number is at about two percent. We are more productive today.”
In today’s current political climate with huge debt and land concerns and rights, Barrasso noted that multiple solutions exist to issues as long as we continue to work together.
“We don’t do this because it’s easy,” Taylor commented. “We do it because we love it. I encourage each of you to take what we learn and share it with our friends, neighbors and local leaders to have a big impact.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.