Indiana Farm Bureau members gathered in Fort Wayne over the weekend for their annual state convention. For President Randy Kron, it was a special convention because it was his first opportunity to deliver the President’s address. In his address on Friday evening, Kron outlined the successes of and challenges facing the organization. He also touched on the key elements of the organization’s newly drafted, strategic plan and discussed the legislative priorities for 2017.
This past year, the Vandenberg County farmer traveled to all 92 counties to talk with Farm Bureau members about what they want from their organization. Kron told HAT the members had one clear message, “Engaging the younger generation. Teaching them how important it is to stand up and be an advocate for agriculture.”
In his address, Kron also hit on the new Farm Bureau strategic plan that’s top priority is to “Create and promote a positive image of agriculture.” Kron said the organization has been working hard on this with their “Raise Your Voice” campaign, but that more needs to be done. “We need to help our members learn how to tell their own story,” he stated. The 5 year plan has six primary goals:
- Creating and promoting a positive image of agriculture and doing more to “tell our story.”
- Growing membership in a consistent and sustainable way.
- Improving the awareness of Farm Bureau as a valuable resource.
- Creating a positive member experience.
- Enhancing the organizational structure to strengthen county Farm Bureaus.
- Continuing successful advocacy efforts at the local, state and national levels.
At the convention, there was a good deal of celebration for the victory that was achieved this past year with a reduction in farmland property taxes by the Indiana General Assembly. In 2017, Kron said the priority will be infrastructure, “Rural roads are very important; and, with a tight state budget, we need to make sure there is funding for rural roads.” On the federal level, he said the Farm Bill is item number one. Farm Bureau has already started listening sessions to take grassroots input on what federal farm policy should be.
Despite some challenging economic times, the mood at the convention was upbeat with a good deal of determination to survive the tough times and meet the many challenges facing agriculture. “I don’t have to tell you we are facing tough economic times on the farm,” said Kron, referring to the low prices Midwestern farmers are receiving for many commodities. “Whether it’s those economic challenges or the obstacles we face as Farm Bureau, we must look for solutions and find our collective voice to advocate for change.” In his address he challenged members saying, “Now more than ever, we must keep raising our voices – here at home and nationally – to protect Hoosier farmers.”
There was also a lot of hallway talk about who might be picked to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. Several prominent Indiana farm leaders are on the short list of possible nominees, including former IFB president Don Villwock. Kron told HAT that farmers are keeping a close watch on who will head some key government agencies and what the Trump administration does on issues like trade, immigration, and renewable fuel.