As much fun as I’ve had at the rest of the 95th Annual Convention, today is one of the absolute high points for me. If you talk to someone involved in Farm Bureau long enough, you’ll hear something along the lines of “the strength of the organization is in the grassroots,” and today is where we see that in action. The voting delegate session is when all of the policy recommendations that started at the county and state Farm Bureaus around the country are voted either for inclusion or exclusion from the American Farm Bureau policy book. Essentially, today will provide direction to our organization and its leaders when they are discussing agricultural issues.
One of the coolest things about this organization – really, the characteristic that separates it from most groups – is that it says and does exactly what its members tell it to say and do. Every single piece of policy that you’ll hear Farm Bureau advocating started with someone standing up at a county or state Farm Bureau meeting and saying “I propose that…”. Is it always easy? No. Are there disagreements? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, everyone involved respects the process of forming our voice, even when a vote or two doesn’t go the way he or she wanted.
From a personal experience, I submitted policy concerning farm data use at the Hamilton County Farm Bureau annual meeting, then spoke in support of it at the Nebraska Farm Bureau annual meeting, helped craft the wording in the American Farm Bureau resolutions committee meeting, then spoke in support of it at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. The policy we passed today sounded different than the few lines I cobbled together back in September, being greatly strengthened by the voices and expertise of other Farm Bureau members and staff.
Watching the grassroots work is what gives us all the motivation to keep working for the betterment of agriculture. I couldn’t be more proud to help shape the voice of America’s farmers and ranchers.
zjhunn is Zach Hunnicutt, a Nebraska farmer and chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. He farms with his dad and brother, growing field corn and soybeans for livestock, and popcorn for people. Find him on Facebook and Twitter (@zjhunn).
One of the main focal points of the Annual Meeting for the Young Farmers & Ranchers program is the Discussion Meet. It kind of looks like a debate, and kind of sounds like a debate, but is most definitely not a debate. Four competitors at a time tackle a question that highlights currents challenges or topics in agriculture, and work together to find common ground and consensus toward solving problems. In essence, it should operate similar to a board meeting where everyone is working toward how the group is going to address the problem.
This competition is a wonderful way to develop leadership potential in the YF&R program. The research required to speak knowledgeably about the questions at hand leave the competitors conversant in a wide range of ag topics, and getting up in front of an audience to talk about all of these issues provides plenty of public speaking experience. And the winner gets a shiny new Chevrolet Silverado, which isn’t a shabby reward for all that work.
I’m writing this a little bleary-eyed, a little caffeinated and a lot motivated. My wife, Anna, and I serve on the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee for American Farm Bureau with 26 other great young leaders in our industry, and with that comes a lot of responsibility at the annual meeting. Primarily, we’re responsible for putting on the Discussion Meet, Excellence in Agriculture, and Achievement Award competitions (all of which will be discussed in greater detail in later posts), which means that we’re putting in 12- to 18-hour days of work to make sure these events go off without a hitch. If you see some smiling young members running all over the Opryland Hotel while you’re here, there’s a good chance it’s one of us.
But since the 28 of us only get to get together four times a year, we make the most of our socializing time after the work is done, leading directly to the bleary eyes and caffeine needs. (Without going into too great detail, I’ll just say we’ve uncovered some unexpected musical talents among the group in the last two nights.) The bonds that are formed when we’re playing and working together make the 18-hour days fly by, and we’ll all be looking forward to the next time we get together and do it again.
If you’re at the meeting and you have any questions, feel free to grab one of us and we’ll do our best to help you. Odds are good that we’ll know where to find the coffee.
zjhunn is Zach Hunnicutt, a Nebraska farmer. He farms with his dad and brother, growing field corn and soybeans for livestock, and popcorn for people. Find him on Facebook and Twitter (@zjhunn).