The foundation of Indiana Farm Bureau is its policy development process, and that process depends on the involvement of voting members.
“The one thing I don’t think we can stress enough is how important member engagement is,” said Andy Tauer, executive director of INFB’s public policy team. “What makes us unique, what makes Farm Bureau as powerful and effective as we are, is having that knowledge behind us as we meet with legislators and other public officials.”
“In surveys, our members have said that the policy development process is important, and I certainly agree with that,” said INFB Vice President Kendell Culp, who chairs the organization’s resolutions committee. “It’s important that we get good policy discussion at the local level. We are a grassroots association – we’ve got to hear from them and hear what issues are important on their farms and in their rural communities.”
On Aug. 26, delegates from across the state will gather in Danville, Indiana, for the annual delegate session. Each of Indiana’s 92 counties will be represented by voting delegates, the number of which is determined by the size of the county’s membership. The delegates will consider INFB’s 2023-24 policy as well as INFB’s recommendations for changes to American Farm Bureau Federation policy.
However, the policy process started months ago when county Farm Bureaus met to consider policy recommendations. Those recommendations were then submitted to state headquarters and considered by INFB’s policy advisory groups during a series of June meetings. Each PAG consists of subject-matter experts and focuses on a specific area of interest: broadband, diversified agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, land use and property rights, production agriculture, rural communities, tax and local government structure, and transportation and infrastructure.
Next, the recommendations to the resolutions committee, which meets in early August. The committee’s job is to review the policy submissions from the counties, the policy advisory groups, the Young Farmers & Ag Professionals State Committee and the Collegiate Farm Bureaus.
One change this year is that the size of the resolutions committee increased from 21 members to 24.
“For 2023, there are three additional at-large members, allowing representation for more areas of expertise,” Culp explained.
The resolutions committee is responsible for producing the policy document that will be considered by the full delegate body.
“Much of the delegate debate will probably concentrate on INFB’s four legislative priorities: taxes, energy, rural vitality and food security,” Culp said. He added that in addition to discussing changes suggested by the counties and the PAGs, the delegates can raise issues directly from the delegate floor.
Based on what he’s heard from members and from attending most of the PAG meetings, Culp said he expects farmland preservation, particularly in terms of energy vs. food production, to be one of the major topics for delegates.
Tauer agreed, saying that the farmland preservation issue is affected by both energy production and urban/suburban sprawl.
“Private property rights and farmland preservation are two very fundamental concepts, and this is where they intersect,” Tauer said.
Culp said that he also anticipates some discussion on foreign ownership of Indiana farmland.
“This is a federal issue but it could come up on the delegate floor,” Culp added.