Ac­tive mem­bers help Farm Bureau en­dure

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Jamine Jo­hans­son is pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion. Reprinted with per­mis­sion of Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion.

In San Diego this week, 126 del­e­gates from 53 county Farm Bu­reaus gather for the Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion An­nual Meet­ing — the 100th time vol­un­teer farm lead­ers from around the state have met to dis­cuss, de­bate and set poli­cies that will guide our or­ga­ni­za­tion in the year ahead.

At this time 100 years ago, CFBF re­mained only an idea.

Ul­ti­mately, the 32 ex­ist­ing county Farm Bu­reaus in Cal­i­for­nia reached the con­clu­sion that they needed to form a statewide fed­er­a­tion in or­der to act ef­fec­tively on is­sues con­fronting farm­ers and ranch­ers.

A few months later, in Oc­to­ber 1919, the Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion held its or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing—its first An­nual Meet­ing—in Berke­ley.

A key fig­ure in the for­ma­tion of CFBF, Cal­i­for­nia Agri­cul­tural Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice founder B.H. Crocheron, told that first An­nual Meet­ing that the com­mit­ment of in­di­vid­ual mem­bers to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s goals would be key to its suc­cess.

If he or the first CFBF pres­i­dent, W.H. Walker of Glenn County, could come back to see what the or­ga­ni­za­tion looks like 99-plus years later, I sus­pect they’d be si­mul­ta­ne­ously stunned by and fa­mil­iar with what they would see.

Cer­tainly, farm­ers and ranch­ers now have agri­cul­tural and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy that our pre­de­ces­sors could only dream of, and crop pat­terns have changed markedly. For ex­am­ple, Cal­i­for­nia grew about a mil­lion acres of bar­ley in 1918 but pis­ta­chios were still an ex­per­i­men­tal crop. Cal­i­for­nia’s 100 mil­lion acres of land ac­com­mo­dated a pop­u­la­tion of 3.2 mil­lion then, not the 40 mil­lion of to­day.

But cer­tainly, Crocheron and Walker would rec­og­nize many of the chal­lenges we face: weather, mar­kets, reg­u­la­tions, the un­cer­tain­ties of wa­ter sup­ply, the strug­gle to hire enough qual­i­fied em­ploy­ees, and oth­ers.

I think Farm Bureau’s founders would be im­pressed by the so­phis­ti­cated way our or­ga­ni­za­tion works to ad­dress those chal­lenges through ad­vo­cacy with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, the courts and the me­dia.

In its early years, CFBF formed a Law and Util­i­ties Depart­ment to ad­vo­cate for its mem­bers, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion moved from Berke­ley to Sacra­mento in 1979 in or­der to make that ad­vo­cacy more im­me­di­ate and ef­fec­tive. This year, CFBF en­gaged with ev­ery elected of­fi­cial in the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­is­la­ture and in our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion; our ad­vo­cates filed more than 3,600 pages of let­ters, le­gal briefs and com­ments on dozens of dif­fer­ent is­sues; and our work with util­ity reg­u­la­tors saved ap­prox­i­mately $65 mil­lion in po­ten­tial rate in­creases for agri­cul­tural elec­tric­ity cus­tomers.

In the 1920s, CFBF pro­vided farm news via mo­tion pic­tures and ra­dio broad­casts. This year, CFBF sent some 600 tweets; re­sponded to more than 500 in­quiries from lo­cal, re­gional, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional me­dia; reached ap­prox­i­mately 1.5 mil­lion non­farm view­ers through our Cal­i­for­nia Boun­ti­ful tele­vi­sion pro­gram; and kept mem­bers in­formed via Ag Alert, video, web­sites, email and other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

CFBF formed an Or­ga­ni­za­tion Depart­ment in 1929 to help county Farm Bu­reaus with mem­ber­ship re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion, and be­gan of­fer­ing in­sur­ance ben­e­fits in the 1940s. Now, Farm Bureau mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia can take ad­van­tage of nearly three-dozen sep­a­rate mem­ber ben­e­fits on equip­ment, sup­plies, busi­ness ser­vices and more, as well as in­sur­ance through our part­ners at Na­tion­wide. In 2019, CFBF will cre­ate a Mem­ber Ad­vo­cacy Depart­ment that will bet­ter equip us to cus­tom­ize mem­ber ben­e­fits to the in­di­vid­ual and, more im­por­tantly, un­der­stand more fully what our mem­bers need.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that en­dure, as Farm Bureau has, must adapt, and those ex­am­ples show how CFBF has changed to meet the shift­ing needs of farm­ers and ranch­ers.

At the same time, Farm Bureau re­mains fo­cused on its ba­sic mis­sion, as laid out in the ar­ti­cles of in­cor­po­ra­tion drafted in 1919: to work for so­lu­tions for the prob­lems of the farm, the farm home and the ru­ral com­mu­nity and to rep­re­sent, pro­tect and ad­vance the so­cial, eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional in­ter­ests of Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers.

When I stood be­fore del­e­gates to the An­nual Meet­ing last year, and asked for their votes to be­come the 16th CFBF pres­i­dent, I noted that Farm Bureau is strong be­cause of our di­ver­sity. Now, as I com­plete my first year in of­fice, I’m more con­vinced of that than ever.

Each year at this time, farm­ers and ranch­ers come to­gether, from the south, from the north, from the coast, from the moun­tains and ev­ery­where in be­tween, to es­tab­lish Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau poli­cies. The An­nual Meet­ing cul­mi­nates a months-long process. Vol­un­teer lead­ers de­vote more than 1,500 hours dur­ing the year to craft and up­date our poli­cies.

Those many vol­un­teer hours un­der­line a point B.H. Crocheron made at the found­ing An­nual Meet­ing in 1919: In or­der for CFBF to suc­ceed, he said, it needed to have the “right kind of mem­ber­ship.” As he saw it, the or­ga­ni­za­tion needed “ac­tive” mem­bers to carry it for­ward.

He was right, as this week’s 100th An­nual Meet­ing will demon­strate. A Farm Bureau mem­ber in 1919 was the same as to­day: not con­tent merely to ac­cept the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal land­scape but in­sis­tent on mak­ing it bet­ter for farm­ers and ranch­ers.

At the end of the week, when we adopt our poli­cies for the new year, Farm Bureau will be ready to move for­ward into its 100th year so­lid­i­fy­ing its long­stand­ing role as the uni­fied voice of Cal­i­for­nia agri­cul­ture — a voice that serves not sim­ply to make a state­ment but to make a dif­fer­ence for Cal­i­for­nia’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. I’m con­fi­dent the orig­i­nal CFBF del­e­gates from 1919 would be proud.

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