What is the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation?
The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is a non-profit association which promotes and represents the interests of farmers in the Commonwealth. It is a federation, or union of smaller organizations, which consists of 11 county Farm Bureaus representing a total of over 6500 member families. MFBF, along with state Farm Bureaus from the 49 other states and Puerto Rico, , is a member of the The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The county, state and national organizations are all linked and work closely together, but they remain independent organizations. Nationwide there are about 2800 County Farm Bureaus representing a total of over 6 million member families
Who Makes up Farm Bureau Membership?
Farmers, not surprisingly, make up the bulk of membership in all of the various Farm Bureau organizations. Agriculture is a broad field. Farm Bureau membership is diverse and includes members involved in fruit and vegetable production, dairy, livestock, greenhouse and nursery, aquaculture, forestry, equine, beekeepers, and others.
Membership provisions vary a bit between states. MFBF has several levels of membership including:
- Regular member – farmers who produce an agricultural commodity or own land which they rent to other farmers.
- Associate members - non-farmer members.
- Student memberships – full-time students, age 16-25.
- Friend of Local Farmers
Non-Farmers who want to support agriculture and/or have a strong interest in agriculture are also invited to be Associate members. Associate members receive all the communications and discounts that Regular Members receive and are welcome to participate in meetings. Associate members cannot however hold office, or vote. Student members receive the same benefits as Associate members and are also eligible to participate on the Young Farmers Committee as well as various leadership trainings.
What to do members get out of their Farm Bureau Membership?
Farm Bureau serves its members by providing educational and social opportunities, information relative to their businesses, and by representing their interests with local, state and federal governments:
- Farm Bureaus offer various seminars at county and annual meetings, as well as leadership training workshops. They may also develop various educational publications, such as the Best Management Practice Guides developed by MFBF working with UMass.
- Social opportunities include county picnics and meetings, state annual meetings and the National Annual meetings. Aside from having fun, these events give members an opportunity to share ideas and concerns about agriculture, and to brainstorm.
- By participating in meetings, members have the opportunity to shape and drive Farm Bureau policy at the county, state and national level.
- Regular members are eligible receive technical assistance and advice from Farm Bureau staff.
Membership with Farm Bureau membership also comes with various discounts on items they regularly purchase like insurance, supplies, vehicles, etc.
How does Farm Bureau develop policy?
Farm Bureau is a true grassroots organization. All policy is developed and driven by members through the resolution process. A resolution is a policy statement that sets the agenda for much of Farm Bureau advocacy work. In Massachusetts, resolution development generally goes through the following steps listed below. Most states follow a similar process.
- A member introduces a resolution at a County Farm Bureau meeting. Members vote on whether to approve the resolution at that meeting.
- Resolutions approved by County Farm Bureaus are reviewed by the Resolutions Committee of MA Farm Bureau. The Resolutions Committee is made up of members of each county, who are voted into the position by their county members. The Resolutions Committee typically does not approve resolutions unless there is emergency need for a resolution. Their role is to prepare and forward resolutions for the statewide delegation.
- Resolutions are discussed and voted upon during the delegate session of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. Delegates are comprised of several members of each County Farm Bureau, who have been voted into that position by county members. The number of delegates per county depends on the size of the membership of the county. The annual resolution process takes the better part of the day, and generally involves a lot of discussion and editing. Resolutions which are adopted at the county meeting become MA Farm Bureau Policy.
- Resolutions are valid for a period of 3 years. At the conclusion of the three year period, the Resolutions Committee reviews them to determine if they remain relevant. If they are determined to be relevant, Delegates must vote at the annual meeting to determine whether to reaffirm them for another three year period.
- Resolutions which are voted in at the annual meeting, and which have national applicability, are brought to the American Farm Bureau (AFBF) meeting for consideration for adoption. The process is similar to the Delegate Session with presidents of all 50 states reviewing and voting upon resolutions. Those adopted become part of AFBF policy.
Do all Farm Bureaus share the same policies?
No. While policy development at Farm Bureau is heavily focused on achieving consensus, states and counties form policies specific to their needs. For instance, policies of Massachusetts Farm Bureau organizations focus heavily on issues relative to small farms, direct sale, farmers markets, etc – as these are areas that are critically important to Massachusetts agriculture. Further, as independent organizations, county and state Farm Bureaus can adopt policies that differ or even conflict with each other and the AFBF.
Who runs the Farm Bureaus?
Farm Bureaus are run by members.
County Farm Bureaus are generally run solely by volunteer members. They are voted into offices such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, etc by other members.
State Farm Bureaus are also run by officers who are elected by the general membership. In addition to officers, state Farm Bureaus have a number of committees to guide, develop, and implement policies. Existing committees at MFBF include:
- Board of Directors
- Investment Committee
- Membership Committee
- Women’s Committee
- Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR Committee)
- Young Farmers Committee
- Apiary Committee
- Dairy Committee
- Equine Committee
Most state Farm Bureaus also have professional staff. MFBF has a staff of 9 full and part time workers to help achieve the goals and policies set by the membership