COLUMBUS – Ohio Farm Bureau president Terry McClure came out shooting. His annual president’s address included an exhortation for members to approve a dues increase of $10, the first since 1987.
He hefted a five-gallon bucket of parts to the podium, pulling out a broken torque amplifier off his combine. “This is worth six memberships,” McClure said. “It was $320.”
A Deutz fuel line? $240.
“And this?” McClure said as he held a small part off the floater on his sprayer. “This cost nearly as much as a lifetime membership.”
Worth it. Relating his ongoing farm costs to the cost of Farm Bureau memberships, McClure said, “We’re the best buy in agriculture there is.”
“I put the dues increase in my truck on the way down here,” McClure added.
His speech was enough to sway delegates, who approved the $10 increase by a 234-73 vote. The code change required a two-thirds affirmative vote, or 218 of the 324 registered delegates at this year’s annual meeting.
The increase, from $36 to $46 per year, will take effect with the 2005 calendar year.
Adding lobbyist. The bulk of the increase, McClure said, will be used for increasing legislative and consumer education and visibility.
Calling legislation and policy development the organization’s “bread and butter,” McClure said the state Farm Bureau would like to add a full-time national lobbyist, funded by the dues increase.
The state board has also discussed developing a “send your neighbor to D.C.” program, for farmer-members who are not active in local Farm Bureau activities. The program would send one member per county on an annual visit to Washington D.C.
A little more than half of the increase is targeted for the farm group’s consumer education program, which includes media relations, advertising, and exhibits.
“If Farm Bureau doesn’t do it, who will?” McClure said. “Who will lead the fight?”
“It’s high time we share our passion with our neighbors,” he added.
Another 20 percent of the increase would upgrade member programs.
County dues. Individual Farm Bureaus set the amount of dues charged locally. These currently range between $42 and $55 per year.
In 2003, 12 county Farm Bureaus approved dues increases and next year, Hardin County Farm Bureau members will be paying the highest dues statewide, at $65.
National increase. The increase also offsets a 2002 50-cent increase in the amount per member the Ohio federation pays to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Ohio pays $4 per member to the national organization.
Some dissension. While the dues increase passed overwhelmingly, several northeastern Ohio delegates voted against the increase.
Trumbull County’s board didn’t lend its support, having just instituted a $6 county dues increase.
“If we lose one active member because of this, we’re taking a step backward, not forward,” said Trumbull county’s Richard Houk.
Based on the current Ohio Farm Bureau membership of 217,531, the increase will raise nearly $2.2 million per year.
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