On November 15–17 members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau met in Hershey Pennsylvania to do our most important function of the year: debate the policies which guide PFB lobbying efforts.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is one of the most powerfully lobby groups at the PA capital. The reason for this is the truly grassroots process that allows any member from any corner of the state to influence the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau policy positions. There are multiple steps before policies are officially adopted by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and then members will meet with lawmakers to advocate on behalf of those policies.
First the process starts locally, at the county level. Every county farm bureau has policy development meetings in the summer. It’s there that the true grassroots advocacy is seen. A member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau brings an issue that they are facing on their farm or in their community to the meeting. There the group of members there will talk about the issue and figure out the best way to present it as an actionable policy to be submitted.
The next step is each county has an early fall annual meeting. Here the members are given updates on what has been happening within farm bureau both local and from a state level. Along with voting on the next group of county board members, those present will vote on the policies that were written up at the policy development meetings. Some hot topics get debated, some get amended, some get deleted. Only the policies that are approved at the county meeting are considered passed and move on.
Once policies are passed in their original county, they are sent to the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau State Policy Development Committee. This committee meets once a few weeks before the annual state meeting and their job is to sort through all of the submitted policies and make the list more fine-tuned. While the state committee does not debate the merits of the policies, they do edit them to match the policy book format. Also, the committee has the power to delete policies where there are duplicates or to combine policies that have similar goals or outcomes to limit redundancy.
After the state committee has completed its task, the policies are sent out to be reviewed by all of the counties in preparation for the annual meeting. Every county is assigned a certain number of delegates to serve on the floor of the annual meeting. Once the annual meeting has begun delegate from across the state have the option to delete and amend every policy in the packet during 2 rounds of deliberation. After the 2 rounds of voting the policies that were voted in become part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau policy manual. This year there were 154 policies that were debated by the delegates. Only a percentage of those survive the delegate meeting and get implemented.
So why does any of this matter? Why do Pennsylvania Farm Bureau members from all over the state take the time to meet in Hershey for 3 days to debate with one another? It’s the power of being united behind common goals for both agriculture and rural Pennsylvania. Without the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, it would be hard for many issues in agriculture and rural Pennsylvania to ever be heard due to the logistical challenges of getting rural voices united over such a large are. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau provides this for us and the process has created one of the strongest grass roots organizations within the country.
Editors Note: Friday on the Farm had to take a break during harvest…it was just a little much for us to handle. We hope to be back to our weekly rotation telling stories about Harvest 2021 and what we are up to during the winter months.
Written by: Douglas Benjamin Lapp, RULE XVIII. Doug lives in Chester County and works on his families farm. Doug is active within the Chester/Delaware County Farm Bureau as well as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau