Shaping Farm Bureau for the future
It’s 2019, and as our organization begins the celebration of its 100th year of service, it’s important that we take time to look back at our 99th year. We can all take pride in our rich history and the firm foundation laid by those who came before us.
2018 was quite a year. The passage of the new farm bill, economic challenges, weather issues – a lot has been going on in agriculture.
A lot has happened for Farm Bureau, too. For the third year in a row, INFB surpassed the previous year’s total membership. That’s something I take pride in, but it’s something you, the members, should take pride in too since we couldn’t have done it without your help and support.
Another thing that we couldn’t have done without your support is fulfilling our priorities in Congress and the Statehouse. It’s our grassroots that gives Farm Bureau its clout.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for placing your trust in me to lead Indiana Farm Bureau for a second term. As the ninth president of this great organization, I take seriously the responsibility to continue to shape Farm Bureau for the future.
And speaking of the future, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of INFB’s Young Farmers program. We will continue to focus on how we bring farmers of all kinds to the table and on engaging the next generation of Farm Bureau leaders.
I know 2019 will be a busy year filled with opportunity. Just as I did during my first term, I am committed to making visits around the state and talking first-hand with our members. The discussions that take place when I am at your meeting or on your farm give me a better understanding of the needs that exist around the state.
I invite you to help me stay connected by contacting me whenever you have a suggestion, concern, or just want to share information.
2018 Annual Report
The inspiration for the title of this annual report is Indiana Farm Bureau’s mission statement: “Indiana Farm Bureau promotes agriculture through public education, member engagement and by advocating for agricultural and rural needs.”
Throughout these pages, the goal is to demonstrate what INFB did in 2018 to fulfill this mission. Listed below (in alphabetical order) are some of the activities, events and initiatives that INFB, its staff and its members worked on in 2018.
2018 marked an expanded digital presence for INFB. Starting in early spring, INFB supplemented its customary radio advertising with a digital advertising campaign targeting farmers and agribusiness professionals. The campaign used a combination of website display ads, Facebook messages and Google Search and was designed to reach farmers and ag professionals as they moved through their day. It also allowed INFB to precisely target who saw the ads and measure their responses.
2018 was a short session for the Indiana General Assembly, and nearly every day that the legislature was in session, at least a few INFB members were there lobbying for Farm Bureau’s priority issues, which were: protect livestock farmers and their operations; strengthen rural quality of life; limit annexation; and ensure assessment uniformity.
Convention and conferences
Learning and fun are both offered at the three large gatherings INFB hosts each year: the Young Farmer Conference, held in Indianapolis in late January; the Spring Conference, held in Indianapolis in early March; and the state convention, held in December in Fort Wayne. More than 400 people attended the Young Farmer Conference, more than 200 attended Spring Conference and nearly 900 attended the 2018 convention.
2017 was the first year for INFB’s app, INFB Events. A total of 341 users installed the app that year, but for the 2018 convention, 519 users installed it and nearly 200 interacted with it. The app is updatable for other events, including Spring Conference and the Young Farmer Conference.
Nearly 100 people attended INFB’s second Agriculture Policy Outlook Conference, which focused on the factors causing declines in some rural economies.
A national program run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture in the Classroom is coordinated in Indiana by INFB. The program has nearly 450 volunteers who promote education on agriculture-related issues in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
AITC also sponsors an annual workshop/update for volunteers as well as educators. In 2018, 121 people attended the update, held in Hamilton County at Conner Prairie.
Another element in INFB’s educational programming is the Book of the Year program, whose goal is to provide county Farm Bureaus and Agriculture in the Classroom volunteers with an additional tool to promote agricultural literacy.
The 2018 BOTY was John Deere, That’s Who, written by Tracy Nelson Maurer and illustrated by Tim Zeltner. In 2018, INFB and county Farm Bureaus distributed more than 1,100 books to schools, teachers, libraries, doctor offices, before- and after-school programs and partnered with the Indiana State Fair field trip program and FFA chapters.
Indiana Ag Law Foundation
The Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization established in 2005 by INFB. INAgLaw’s mission is promoting a better understanding of legal issues facing Indiana agriculture through educational programming and support of precedent-setting litigation. INAgLaw was also instrumental in creating the agricultural law section of the Indiana State Bar Association.
The foundation has supported cases involving Indiana’s right-to-farm law, land use, planning and zoning and property rights. It is funded through donations. In 2018 INAgLaw raised a total of $161,447 – a record for donations.
Indiana State Fair
The Farm Bureau Building was the focus of most of INFB’s activities during the state fair. A total of 43,600 bags of free popcorn (courtesy of Preferred Popcorn of Palmyra, Indiana) were distributed during the fair’s 17-day run, and 4,971 people lined up for samples of Indiana food during the three days of Taste from Indiana Farms, sponsored by the INFB Women’s Leadership Committee.
INFB sponsored two new programs at the 2018 fair: Animal Town and the Supreme Drive. Animal Town offered displays of the livestock species exhibited at the fair and education about them, while the Supreme Drive recognized supreme and reserve champion 4-H breeding ewes, dairy females and gilts.
Again this year, the building boasted a large-screen TV showing videos of INFB members. These videos represented INFB’s diverse membership, including agribusiness professionals, livestock farmers and crop farmers.
Leaders in Action, INFB’s leadership development program, provides training to Indiana Farm Bureau members who want to take their leadership skills to the next level. A select group of 23 members and staff participated in the program in 2018, meeting four times throughout the year to learn about engaging local government, self-leadership, communication and presentation and Farm Bureau history. Then they put their new skills to use by traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with elected officials.
Leadership development of a different kind was offered through the Communications Boot Camp, which was focused on “basic training” in communications techniques for Farm Bureau women. 2018 marked the program’s second year, and 11 women from around the state participated in this intensive one-day training.
New for 2018 was “Board Orientation 101,” a training program for county board members whether they have been a member of their county board for 30 years or 3 months. Five sessions were held in 2018, covering Farm Bureau history, membership, governance, working with the insurance company, INFB programs and committees.
“Board Orientation 201” was launched at the 2018 state convention and will make its way into the counties in 2019. It covers committees, succession planning, meetings and agendas, and budgets.
Four hundred and seventy-six pieces of media coverage were generated as a result of active media outreach – almost double the 2017 figure – and 44 press releases were distributed.
Public policy topics including trade, the farm bill and the legislative session were the subject of 46 percent of news coverage, and the rest was on non-policy topics such as state convention, young farmer activities and individual members. Twenty-six percent of the pieces featured a specific Farm Bureau member or members.
The easiest way to find out about and use most of INFB’s member benefits is through the My Member Deals portal. A webinar to help familiarize members with My Member Deals was recorded in 2018 and can be accessed by going to YouTube and typing “INFB Member Benefits” in the search bar.
About 32,000 members have registered through the portal, and member savings total more than $2 million annually.
INFB ended its membership year with 262,485 total memberships, which is 100.74 percent of 2017’s total. This is the third year in a row that INFB has surpassed the previous year’s total membership.
As for voting memberships, the final total was 71,242, which was short of 2017’s total by just 1,039.
Political action committees
Indiana Farm Bureau ELECT – INFB’s original political action committee – was first established in 1983 with the goal of supporting candidates who support Farm Bureau, encouraging member engagement and increasing the organization’s political clout. AgELECT, INFB’s newest PAC, was established in 2017 to help support state-level candidates in Indiana.
ELECT receives most of its support from the voluntary $5 donation collected during INFB membership renewals. All contributions must come from members. In contrast, the funding for AgELECT is much more flexible. It can come from both member and non-member donations and fundraisers, LLCs, sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations.
The two PACs endorsed a total of 91 candidates in the November elections, and 87 of those endorsed candidates won their races.
The Hoosier Farmer (INFB’s monthly newspaper) and the FB Feed (its monthly electronic newsletter) were redesigned in 2018 with the new designs appearing in January 2019. Both The Hoosier Farmer and My Indiana Home (INFB’s quarterly magazine) conducted reader surveys to gauge what topics and features readers are most interested in.
For members who are especially interested in public policy issues, INFB produces the Public Policy Dispatch, a legislative and regulatory update that is sent out electronically to around 13,000 people. It comes out weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session and biweekly the rest of the year.
Some new staff positions were added in 2018 to better serve members and county Farm Bureaus. The marketing team added a county marketing coordinator to direct and manage county marketing needs as they pertain to member engagement, retention and involvement efforts, including “toolkits” that provide counties with resources to help them plan, execute and promote activities such as county fair participation, rural road safety initiatives, Ag Day and INFB’s 100th anniversary.
The organizational development team added a new position: special projects coordinator. Hired for this position was Blaire Bennett, and in her new role, she supports programming for INFB members, assists the INFB Women’s Leadership Committee in planning Spring Conference and works to provide additional opportunities for member engagement across the state.
In addition, the organizational development team added the position of field operations manager. Laura Ruhlman, formerly the regional manager in INFB Districts 7 and 9, provides direction and leadership to the 15 regional managers who work with county Farm Bureaus across the state.
Website, social media
INFB’s website underwent a complete redesign two years ago, but the content continues to evolve. Among the innovations for last year was an online leadership directory that is available to members who have logged in to the website. Rolled out at the very end of the year was a timeline created in honor of INFB’s 100th anniversary.
The organization continues to be very active on social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Compared to 2017, likes to INFB’s Facebook page were up 23 percent in 2018 (increasing from 4,513 to 5,556); Twitter followers grew 5 percent (from 6,171 to 6,504); and Instagram followers were up 17 percent (from 1,042 to 1,219).