American Farm Bureau Federation

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American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and representing the interests of U.S. farmers. More than five million members in 50 states and Puerto Rico belong to the AFBF, making it the largest U.S. farm organization. The AFBF is a federation of 2,800 county farm organizations, which elect representatives to state farm bureaus. The organization maintains its general headquarters in Park Ridge, Illinois, and has an office in Washington, D.C. From these offices the AFBF staff offers many services and programs for state and county farm bureaus and members.

The first county farm bureau was formed in Broome County, New York, in 1911. The word bureau in farm bureau is used because the first organization was formed as a "bureau" of the local chamber of commerce. Missouri was the first state to form a statewide organization of farm bureaus in 1915. The AFBF was founded in 1919 when a small group of farmers from 30 state bureaus gathered in Chicago, Illinois. The AFBF soon became a voice for agriculture at the national level, Lobbying Congress for passage of legislation favorable to farmers.

The AFBF relies on its 2,800 county bureaus for direction and support. Thousands of volunteer leaders serve on county farm bureau boards and committees. Members organize social outings, educational workshops, political action and community forums, and other programs and services for farm families.

State bureaus adopt policies and name delegates to represent them at the AFBF annual meeting. Policies adopted by voting delegates govern the federation. These policies deal with many issues, including the use of natural resources, taxation, property rights, services to the farm community, trade, food safety and quality, and other issues that affect rural America.

The AFBF has historically been a conservative organization, favoring flexible price supports for crops and a minimum of government regulation and oversight. Its government relations division employs a number of registered lobbyists who are specialists on farm policy, trade, budget and taxes, farm credit, labor, transportation, conservation, and the environment. These individuals maintain daily contact with Congress and regulatory agencies and appear before congressional committees.

The AFBF's public policy division is responsible for research, education, and policy support for AFBF and the state farm bureaus. Staff members provide analysis and information on current issues, including property rights, health care, clean water, endangered species, animal welfare, farm programs, and dairy policy. One of the hottest issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s has concerned the current and future role of biotechnology in agriculture. Biotechnology and other technological developments including computers, lasers, and robots are also issues being closely followed by AFBF and the county and state farm bureaus. Additionally, the AFBF has sought to play a major role in such areas as the continuing development of renewable fuels and international trade. The division also coordinates several special farm bureau activities, including commodity advisory committees, annual crop surveys, and various national seminars and conferences on policy issues.

The federation's communication division operates a computerized marketing, news, and weather system, which delivers the latest news, market information, u.s. department of agriculture news, and agricultural weather reports to subscribers by satellite.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, founded in 1967, funds research on agricultural issues. The foundation is funded by gifts from individuals, county and state farm bureaus, corporations, and foundations. The foundation has funded research on animal waste management, pesticide use, new methods of helping endangered species, and animal welfare education. The foundation has also been active in numerous educational outreach programs including "Agriculture in the Classroom," awards and contests, farm tours and field days, garden and planting projects, mobile classroom units, and newsletters, books, and videos.

Further readings

American Farm Bureau. Available online at <www.fb.org> (accessed May 30, 2003).

Howard, R. P. 1982. James R. Howard and the Farm Bureau. Ames, IA: Iowa State Univ. Press.

Woell, Melvin. 1990. Farm Bureau Architects: Through Four Decades. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.

Cross-references

Farm Credit Administration.

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