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The Faces of Farm Bureau

IFB lobbyists represent members at the Statehouse

—By Kathleen M. Dutro
Public Relations Team

The most effective lobbyists for any organization, but particularly a grassroots organization such a Farm Bureau, are its members. But members can’t be there all the time and follow all the details. They in many cases live far from the Statehouse, and they have lives, families and farms to tend. That’s where the professional lobbying staff comes in. IFB has eight professional staff members who are registered as Indiana lobbyists, and IFB President Don Villwock is registered as well. These nine men and women, with the help of administrative assistants B.J. Fields and Wanda Hunter, are the ones who interact with the members of the General Assembly on a day-to-day basis. When members can’t be there, they are the faces of Farm Bureau at the Indiana Statehouse.

 

 

Don Villwock


President

Lobbying background: Has been a registered lobbyist since becoming IFB president.

Primary Statehouse focus: Because of the IFB lobbyists' expertise and long-time working relationships with legislators, he relies on them to do the everyday work at the General Assembly. But he visits with key legislators on high profile legislation when staff needs extra help and, when available, meets with counties when they visit the Statehouse.

"Getting our members' policies into law is one of the most important things we do. To be successful takes the whole FB team getting involved, from the professional staff to grassroots members. Lobbying is as simple as building relationships, educating elected officials about our issues and becoming a trusted and reliable source of information."

 

 

 

Wayne Dillman


Public Policy Specialist

Lobbying background: Started his lobbying career for Indiana Farmers Union in 1970, a position he retired from in 2004. Since 2007, he has lobbied for Farm Bureau during each legislative session. The 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly will be his fifth with Farm Bureau and 39th as a lobbyist.

Primary Statehouse focus: Filling in where needed; keeping track of committee meeting schedules as an aid to other staff members; getting legislators the information they need.

"What many people do not understand is that legislators come to us about as much as we go to them. It is a two-way street."

 

 

Katrina Hall


Tax and Local Government Specialist

Lobbying background: Joined IFB in 1999 and has been an IFB lobbyist since the 2000 session. Her primary job at Farm Bureau is lobbying the Indiana General Assembly and regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Local Government Finance, State Board of Accounts, Department of Education and Office of Management and Budget. Before joining IFB, Hall worked for the State Board of Tax Commissioners, now the DLGF. For most of her 10 years at the SBTC, she advised the General Assembly on bills involving local government tax and budgetary issues, education finance, and local government administration.

Primary Statehouse focus: Taxes, local and state government finance, education policy and local governance issues.

"Representing the members of Indiana Farm Bureau is a truly rewarding experience."

 

 

 

Pete Hanebutt


Political Education Specialist

Lobbying background: Involved with lobbying at the Statehouse and activities with ELECT (IFB's political action committee) since 1998. He became involved with grassroots activities, such as coordinating relationships between legislators and Farm Bureau members, in 1994.

Primary Statehouse focus: Natural resources and forestry.

"But my major activity at the Statehouse is grassroots legislative contact."

 

 

 

Bob Kraft


Director of State Government Relations

Lobbying background: Has led Farm Bureau's state lobbying efforts for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Farm Bureau, he served as executive director of the state's Port Commission and represented the St. Lawrence Seaway in Washington, D.C. In 2010 he was recognized by his fellow Indiana lobbyists with the Governmental Affairs Society's Steere Award for Meritorious Service.

Primary Statehouse focus: Coordinating the efforts of all Farm Bureau lobbyists, maintaining relationships with legislative leaders and writing the weekly Dispatch for Farm Bureau members.

"Farm Bureau's lobbying success is directly related to the level which our grassroots membership is willing to engage with their elected representatives on a particular issue."

 

 

 

Megan Ritter


Program Coordinator, National Government Relations

Lobbying background: Began her lobbying career with Michigan Farm Bureau in 2005 and joined the IFB public policy team in October.

Primary Statehouse focus: National issues are her primary lobbying responsibility, but she will also assist as needed at the Statehouse. During the legislative session she will work to communicate with members on calls to action.

"Member involvement in the lobbying efforts makes working for Farm Bureau great. It really makes a difference to not only the legislators but the IFB staff who work to implement policy."

 

 

 

Justin Schneider


Staff Attorney

Lobbying background: Has been lobbying for IFB for six years. His primary job at Farm Bureau is lobbying regulatory agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and that duty continues throughout the year. But when the General Assembly is in session, he also handles some legislative issues.

Primary Statehouse focus: Environmental issues, particularly those related to nutrients and water quality, and fills in where needed on property rights issues.

"Legislation often triggers court decisions and agency regulations which in turn trigger new legislation. It is a cycle which requires year-round diligence."

 

 

 

Mark Thornburg


General Counsel

Lobbying background: Has been lobbying since joining IFB in 1999. Prior to joining IFB he worked for Indiana state agencies including the Office of the State Chemist, Office of the Indiana Commissioner of Agriculture and the Purdue Cooperative Extension service.

Primary Statehouse focus: Handles issues related to agricultural law and fills in as needed.

"Having a focused and grassroots presence in the Statehouse is critical to developing sound policy for Indiana agriculture. I am proud to be part of the staff that can help accomplish that for Farm Bureau members."

 

 

 

Kent Yeager


Public Policy Director

Lobbying background: Started lobbying as a Farm Bureau member in the 1970s. Before joining the Farm Bureau lobby team in 1996 and becoming a registered lobbyist, he did volunteer lobbying for the Indiana Corn Growers, Indiana Soybean Growers and Purdue CARET and served three years as ASCS/ FSA state director.

Primary Statehouse focus: Filling in where needed; attending committee meetings; meeting with legislators; providing support for Bob Kraft and Katrina Hall as they track information and coordinate activity.

"Topics that impact farmers are discussed daily during a legislative session, and many of those issues do not have the words 'farm' or 'agriculture' attached to them. To represent the interests of our members it takes several people working with legislators to follow issues and represent our members."

 

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