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INFB Annual Report: Looking back and looking ahead

2017_annual_reportA Letter from the President

Early in 2017, Indiana Farm Bureau began a challenging but exciting process: implementing Indiana Farm Bureau’s strategic plan, “Defining Our Future.”

This annual report is intended to provide an update on the first year of that process – and to provide a glimpse into what we have planned in 2018.

The strategic plan was the result of months of effort by members, officers and staff to create a roadmap that will guide the organization through 2021.

In “Defining Our Future,” members realized that INFB programs and activities needed to be more strategically implemented and identified six areas on which to focus:

  • Grow membership in a consistent and sustainable way.
  • Create and promote a positive image of agriculture. “Tell our story.”
  • Create a positive member experience.
  • Improve the awareness of Indiana Farm Bureau as a valuable resource.
  • Continue successful advocacy efforts at all levels.
  • Develop an organizational structure that strengthens county Farm Bureaus.

I am proud of the number of priorities we were able to achieve this year, but what I am most proud of is the engagement of our members during the 2017 legislative session. Nearly 600 members came to the Statehouse and talked with their legislators about everything from road funding to broadband to annexation. We also had more than 1,900 emails distributed from our members to their legislators during session.

I also am proud of the fact that, for the second year in a row, we had an increase in total membership. We couldn’t have done that without you because the number of new members written by volunteers increased significantly compared to previous years. While we came close to increasing our voting membership, we just missed that goal.

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. We’re going to take a solid look at all of our programs to determine if they are serving our members in the best way.

Thank you for all you’ve done to help Farm Bureau succeed. We look forward to helping every county have a successful 2018!

Randy Kron
Indiana Farm Bureau President

 

2017 INBF Annual Report

2017 was a year of transition for Indiana Farm Bureau as the organization began implementing a new strategic plan that will carry it into 2021.

The goal of this annual report – the first annual report issued by INFB in more than a decade – is to allow the leadership, members and staff to look back at 2017 as an aid to evaluating where we need to go in 2018. It is organized around the same six focus areas around which the strategic plan is organized.

Grow membership in a consistent and meaningful way.

For the second year in a row, INFB saw in 2017 an increase in total memberships. By the end of the 2017 membership year, the organization had 260,546 members, which represents 100.97 percent of 2016’s total. However, the number of voting members declined slightly from last year, ending at 72,281, which represents 98.75 percent of 2016’s total.

Volunteers signed 928 members, far exceeding the official goal of 800 volunteer-signed memberships and even exceeding the highest total of recent years, which was 875 in 2015.

Create and promote a positive image of agriculture. ‘Tell our story.’

Media outreach:

  • 276 media hits were generated as a result of active media outreach.
  • 54 press releases were distributed.
  • News coverage included a mix of general news about Indiana Farm Bureau (56 percent) and public policy topics (44 percent).
  • Media coverage spanned many topics including INFB’s successes in the 2017 general session, the effects of excess rain during spring planting, INFB’s 2017 Book of the Year, the importance of NAFTA and trade, and seasonal market basket updates. Many non-ag media outlets shared INFB’s news including the Indianapolis Business Journal, RTV-6, WISH-TV, WFYI, The Indianapolis Star, regional newspapers and more.

Advertising campaign:

INFB continued to increase membership marketing efforts and awareness through print and radio ag-media outlets in 2017. New this year was digital advertising through Facebook and web display ads, which were used to drive potential members to the INFB website and the online membership application. The use of all three forms of media increased the likelihood of reaching the diverse age demographic of potential new members.

My Indiana Home:

Mailed out quarterly to all INFB members, the magazine is specifically written to appeal to non-farmer members. Producers featured in 2017 raised a wide variety of commodities including hogs, cattle, bison, fish, greens, shrimp and strawberries, with the goal of fulfilling My Indiana Home’s mission of connecting consumers to their food and the farmers that grow it.

Helping members tell their stories:

  • Training in issue engagement – County Farm Bureau boards, farmer groups and individual members received training in advocating at the local level through INFB efforts (coordinated by INFB livestock development specialist Greg Slipher) to protect and expand livestock farming and other agriculture in the state. Through these efforts and with the help of Farm Bureau staff, county Farm Bureaus and individual members have supported local livestock farmers and their operations and positively affected county ordinances and zoning proposals.
  • Farm visits – More than 50 members of the Indiana House and Senate have visited a large livestock farm since the end of the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly thanks to the combined efforts of county Farm Bureaus, individual members and leaders and staff.
  • Leaders in Action (INFB’s leadership development program) – A selected group of 19 people participated in the program in 2017, meeting four times throughout the year and receiving instruction on engaging local government, self-leadership, communication and presentation and Farm Bureau history and opportunities. Then they put their new skills to use during a trip to Washington, D.C., where they met with elected officials. 

Ag in the Classroom:

  • A total of 71,101 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 were reached through the program, primarily through volunteers.
  • Forty-six counties reported at least one activity or volunteer presentation.
  • A total of 674 activities including guest classroom presentations, youth organizations, ag day and other events were reported.
  • At least 76 active volunteers participated.

INFB Book of the Year:

2017 was the first year for INFB’s Book of the Year program, the purpose of which is to increase understanding, build awareness and develop a positive public perception of Indiana agriculture through education. The Kid Who Changed the World, by Andy Andrews, was selected as the BOTY, and it was promoted through a campaign that included every county as well and was promoted at the Statehouse during Indiana Agricultural Literacy Week, Feb. 20-24.

  • All 92 counties participated.
  • 846 copies were ordered by counties.
  • 276 complimentary books were distributed to schools and libraries thanks to a grant from Spriestersbach Farm Corp., a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation.

Indiana State Fair:

  • A total of 3,940 fairgoers lined up for free food samples – and free information about agriculture – during Taste From Indiana Farms, sponsored and organized by the Indiana Women’s Leadership Committee
  • Approximately 400 people attended a special show held on the first day of the fair that featured the Peterson Farm Bros, three brothers from a farm family in Kansas who have become a YouTube sensation through their song parodies that teach people about agriculture.

Continue successful advocacy efforts at all levels.

  • Nearly 600 INFB members representing 88 counties visited the Statehouse during the 2017 legislative session, and among the results were passage of a historic Farm Bureau-supported road funding bill, much needed changes in the grain indemnity fund, and a streamlined property tax appeals system. Members also lobbied in favor of greater access to rural broadband, additional reforms to Indiana’s annexation laws, efforts that continue in 2018.
  • County Farm Bureaus and individual members advocated at a local level to address zoning changes, support livestock farmers and help craft county ordinances that support agriculture of all kinds, said Greg Slipher, INFB livestock development specialist.
  • Members also advocated at the national level, including through the Leaders in Action and Collegiate Farm Bureau trips to Washington, as well as the annual lobbying trip for county leaders. Top priorities for 2017 included WOTUS, the farm bill, trade and tax reform.

ELECT, AgELECT:

ELECT, the organization’s original political action committee, continues to make endorsements and provide support in federal races. In August, however, INFB created AgELECT, a state-level political action committee that supports and makes endorsements in Statehouse races.

AgELECT raised more than $41,000 in 2017 – and hosted its first-ever fundraising booth at the state convention. Dana Carter, INFB political engagement manager, said she is in the process now of developing the fundraising plan for 2018.

Indiana Ag Law Foundation:

Created in 2005, the Indiana Ag Law Foundation (INAgLaw) allows the organization to be engaged in precedent-setting agricultural cases within the judicial system as well.

Agriculture faces increasing challenges from governmental entities and interest groups opposed to production agriculture – a trend that will likely continue in courthouses throughout the state. INAgLaw was created to help clarify the law and ensure that the voice of Indiana agriculture is heard in the judicial system.

 This past year, INAgLaw was engaged in cases involving the constitutionality of Indiana’s right to farm law, CAFO zoning, IDEM regulation of lake levels, Syngenta class action litigation as well as other legal cases involving private property rights. 

Develop an organizational structure that strengthens county Farm Bureaus.

A new position was created on the marketing team designed specifically to serve county Farm Bureaus. Former INFB intern Mallory Meyer is now the county marketing coordinator, and in that role she will direct and manage county marketing needs as they pertain to member engagement, retention and involvement efforts.

INFB President Randy Kron has indicated that one of the goals for 2018 is taking a look at all INFB programs to determine if they are serving members in the right way, if they’re the programs members want and if they’re positioning INFB to cultivate new leaders.

Create a positive member experience.

  • A revised website (the new design was rolled out in December 2016) that makes it easier for members and others to locate news, staff contact information, and more. Among the innovations is a new “hot topics” section, which provides key talking points on a variety of topics including food safety, modern farm technology, the farm bill, CAFOs vs. CFOs, antibiotic use in livestock and GMOs. To find the new section, visit INFB, log on to your Farm Bureau account, and look for “For Volunteers” under the “Resources” tab.
  • A new electronic newsletter called the FB Feed debuted in March. The monthly newsletter goes to all voting members for whom INFB has an email address. In addition, The Hoosier Farmer, which has been mailed to members since the organization began in 1919, was redesigned to make it easier to read and navigate.
  • Several new member benefits debuted this year, including special deals offered through Ford and John Deere. To find out about all the discounts and deals available through your Farm Bureau membership, visit My Member Deals.
  • Opportunities for both learning and fun are offered through three large meetings INFB hosts annually: the state convention, the Young Farmer Conference and the Spring Conference. Nearly 1,300 attended the December convention, another 361 attended the Young Farmer Conference (held at the end of January) and 276 the Spring Conference (held in early March).
  • New in 2017 was the Ag Policy Outlook, held in June. The event featured experts from the American Farm Bureau Federation staff and a panel discussion on broadband and health care access.

Improve awareness of Indiana Farm Bureau as a valuable resource.

In addition to the educational opportunities offered during the general meetings, INFB also offered educational opportunities through special workshops including the Ag in the Classroom update and teacher’s workshop held in June; the estate and succession planning workshop, held in July and attended by 51 people; the campaign school, held in November and attended by 23 candidates, candidate spouses and campaign managers; and drainage school, held in August to a sold-out crowd of 105 people.