COLUMBUS — With blessing from county delegates, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation staffers will push forth in 2009 with the state’s plan to implement a changed timeline for signing new members.
Some 341 county delegates convened in Columbus Dec. 3-5 to recommend policy and amend code of the organization.
During more than a day of policy review, those delegates discussed hot topics ranging from membership to manure to the youth program and young farmers.
For many years, Farm Bureau members worked through the winter to sign up new members. Those memberships were good for the calendar year in which they were sold.
However, during last week’s session, the delegates voted to sign new members on an anniversary basis instead of a calendar-year basis.
Under the old system, for instance, a new member signed in March paid full dues for a membership that was good through Dec. 31. Under the newly adopted system, a new member signed in March 2009 would pay full dues, but his membership would be valid through March 2010.
All current members will maintain a Jan. 1 anniversary date, according to Coshocton County farmer Brent Porteus, who served as first vice president during the delegate session.
Past president of the Farm Bureau, Bob Peterson, also said during the session that most other state Farm Bureaus already have their membership calendar set up this way, which helps spread the workload over an entire year and gives those who help sell memberships a year-long window of opportunity.
The new system is expected to go into effect Jan. 1.
The change in the membership system was the only code change delegates adopted.
Proposed changes not approved included removing the gender stipulation from the regional women’s trustee position; creating a legal defense fund committee; creating a Farm Bureau youth committee to maintain and expand the youth program; changing the week or month in which the state annual meeting is held; and establishing a permanent, reduced-rate introductory membership.
Farm Bureau representatives said the legal defense fund was already being organized and did not need to be included in the organization’s code. The others were voted down by delegates.
Perhaps no two topics got as much discussion on the delegate floor than the future of the Farm Bureau’s youth and young farmer programming.
The names of both programs had been changed in recent months to reflect a broader affiliation.
However, the change didn’t sit well with Miami County’s Dan Sturgill, who, with his wife, currently serves on the Young Professionals committee. That committee plans programming for Farm Bureau members 18-35.
Sturgill introduced a policy change asking to put agriculture back in the group’s name.
“Taking out the word ‘agriculture’ in this committee’s name is not appropriate,” said Robyn Callicoat, a Clark County delegate who, along with her husband, also serves on the committee.
Delegates passed the resolution to change the group’s name to Young Agricultural Professionals Program.
Delegates from Henry County were as equally passionate about young people’s involvement in the organization, and lobbied delegates to reinstate several youth council events and committees.
Recently, the state staff revealed plans to discontinue the youth annual meeting and Outstanding Youth Council award and to scale back regional and statewide youth camps and rallies in the coming year.
Brent Porteus said the cuts were made in reaction to decreased participation and in an effort to find new ways to share the Farm Bureau youth experience.
Kurt Ely, senior vice president of communications, said only 15 counties statewide have an active youth council program and that in making the cuts, the state was trying to “balance the cost benefit with desires” and adjusting the program instead of altogether eliminating it.
Heidi Ahleman, of Henry County, told delegates the cuts were made without consulting county youth advisers and that some were not even aware of the changes.
Stark County’s Frank Burkett, who serves on the state board, said though the state wants the youth program to succeed, the current system isn’t reaching enough youth and needed tweaked.
“Great youth programs begin in the county. We will build an outstanding youth program through county feedback,” he said.
Shortly before a vote was taken on the matter, state trustee Paul Harrison of Seneca County reminded the board and delegates that policy already in effect directs the state to encourage, support and expand youth programming, and that by making the most recent cuts, the state Farm Bureau was violating its own policy.
Delegates voted to maintain the policy and directed the state to investigate the youth program cuts.
Other policies discussed briefly included animal welfare and livestock abuse; manure nutrient testing; and animal and premise identification.
Also on the minds of delegates were measures to rehabilitate old school buildings before building new; construction of wind projects and concerns regarding migratory birds and wildlife; and civil remedies against scrap metal dealers who knowingly purchase stolen metals.