GFB conference teaches advocacy, highlights GFB programs
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
While attending the Georgia Farm Bureau Presidents’ Conference held Feb. 2 in Augusta, county leaders learned to effectively advocate for agriculture and gained insight into the organization’s new county awards program, marketing efforts, Certified Farm Markets Passport, ag literacy and leadership programs.
“I hope you learn a lot and thank you for coming,” GFB President Tom McCall said. “We’ve got great programs we want to familiarize everyone with, and we’ve added the GFB Impact Fund. Our marketing and field services staff are going to discuss programs and resources their departments offer to help you as county leaders grow your Farm Bureaus and take care of our members.”
7 Actions of Highly Effective Advocates
Roger Rickard, founder and president of Voices in Advocacy , encouraged county Farm Bureau leaders to speak up for agriculture by sharing the Louis Armstrong quote, “If you don’t toot your own horn there is no music.”
Rickard gave a short civics lesson pointing out that the U.S. doesn’t have a government ruled by the majority but rather a majority ruled by those who participate.
“There are always challenges ahead and things are always changing. If you keep a low profile, you’re going to have little influence and you will be vulnerable to government legislation, government regulations, policy decisions that others make and media attacks from people who don’t understand what you do and why you do it,” Rickard said.
Rickard stressed the importance of citizens getting to know their elected officials.
“You can’t accomplish anything unless you have a solid relationship with someone,” Rickard said. “You have to establish relationships before a need arises.”
When necessity requires you to make an ask of an elected official you don’t know well, approach them politely and respectfully, Rickard said.
“Always lead with a smile and not an angry attitude,” he advises.
To be an effective advocate, Rickard recommends following these steps:
- Believe you make a difference when you talk to your elected official;
- Be informed about your subject. Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t have all the answers. Find a reliable source to get the answer, then provide it;
- Discuss the issues. Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors about how an issue will affect all of you. Share what you think is right for your community. Listen to opposing viewpoints;
- Go on the record with your position. Share your story by writing letters to the editor or talking to reporters. Think about the pertinent information you want your audience to know and how you want your audience to feel;
- Be a resource for your elected officials. Introduce yourself to them and offer yourself as a resource for any questions they may have about agriculture. Tell them if you don’t know the answer, you’ll put them in touch with someone who does;
- Volunteer & recruit other volunteers;
- Contribute your time and/or contribute your money to organizations and/or Political Action Committees that share your values.
“Political Action Committees are important because the contributions they make let elected officials know you understand what they go through to represent you,” Rickard said.
Rickard stressed the importance of voting for all levels of elected officials stating that we, the citizens of the U.S., elect about 538,000 officials nationwide from the U.S. president and vice president, U.S. Congress (535 seats); state legislators (7,300); state governors, lieutenant governors and other state officials (400) to local officials like commissioners, mayors and sheriffs (529,000).
GFB establishes Impact Fund
Conference attendees learned more about the political action committee (PAC) started after GFB voting delegates overwhelmingly endorsed creating it at the organization’s 2021 convention. The GFB Board of Directors then unanimously voted to establish the GFB Impact Fund and authorized the GFB Mutual Insurance Company to match contributions made to the GFB State Impact Fund by Feb. 28.
Each contribution to the GFB State Impact Fund is voluntary and will support candidates from both parties who support agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau values. To learn more about the GFB Impact Fund, contact Katie Duvall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GFB State Impact Fund
Attn: Katie Duvall
1620 Bass Road
Macon, GA 31210
Contributions to the GFB Impact Fund are not tax deductible. Each contribution must be accompanied by the contribution form to be accepted.
It’s time to advocate!
GFB Advocacy & Policy Development Coordinator Katie Duvall briefed county leaders on what’s happening at the Georgia capitol as the ’22 legislative session is in full swing.
“This is the time of year when Georgia Farm Bureau needs our grassroots network to advocate,” Duvall said.
To keep up with the bills Georgia legislators are considering that affect agriculture, Duvall encouraged members to visit www.gfb.ag/legislativereports to sign up for GFB’s Legislative reports, which are published weekly while the Georgia General Assembly is in session.
Duvall stressed the importance of county Farm Bureaus holding events like farm tours or legislative breakfasts/dinners to help their members meet their legislators on weekends or months when the legislature isn’t meeting.
“A face-to-face interaction is 34 times more successful than just sending an email,” Duvall said. “It’s also very hard to change an elected official’s mind overnight. That’s why it’s important to build relationships with them and have ongoing conversations.”
GFB commercials changing ag’s image
GFB Marketing Team members Whitney Mooney and Jennifer Parson introduced county leaders to some of the commercials GFB is airing on digital platforms and on TV to address misconceptions consumers may have about farmers and to introduce consumers to GFB's values of family, faith and support for local communities.
Macon County farmer Donald Chase, who grows peanuts and raises poultry, is featured in an ad that highlights things farmers do while growing row crops that protect the environment. County leaders could show this ad when speaking to civic groups or schools to let consumers or students “meet” a farmer.
A new ad will begin airing in coming weeks featuring Jamie Cromley from Bulloch County that highlights GFB's Certified Farm Markets and the safe, nutritious food Georgia farmers produce.
You can view the ads at https://www.gfb.org/membership/testimonials.cms .
County leaders were also reminded that the best way to stay current on organizational, state and national ag news is to subscribe to GFB Field Notes – the electronic newsletter GFB publishes bimonthly. All Georgia farmers and members of Georgia’s ag community are welcome to subscribe at www.gfb.ag/fieldnotes.
Get involved with Women’s Leadership, YF&R, Ag Literacy & Farm Passport Programs
County leaders learned how to use the Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers & Ranchers Committees to recruit new members and help them advocate for agriculture.
The Women’s Leadership Committee is putting a new emphasis on making ladies feel more comfortable speaking up for agriculture and contacting their elected officials through a series of events to be held throughout the year.
The first was a Legislative Drive-In workshop held Feb. 7 in cooperation with the YF&R Committee that trained attendees to make short videos to post on social media sharing their participation at GFB Day at the Capitol and the issues they were discussing.
In early March, GFB will release information about applying for all YF&R award contests – Achievement Award in Agriculture; Excellence in Agriculture Award; and Discussion Meet.
Registration information for the YF&R Summer Conference, to be held July 14-16 on Jekyll Island, and the annual YF&R Photo Contest will be released in early March. The application deadline for awards and conference registration is June 1. Photo contest entries are due by June 10.
GFB Educational Programs Coordinator Lauren Goble discussed how county Farm Bureaus can increase ag literacy in their communities by recruiting teachers to take online educator workshops. Counties can also partner with their local libraries to offer library programs for children such as teaching kids how to plant seeds or make ice cream.
The 2022 Certified Farm Market Passports will be sent to county Farm Bureau offices in time for the March 12 kickoff, GFB CFM Coordinator Kelly Henry said. County Farm Bureaus can earn points for the new REAP Awards program for passports that are returned at the end of the year by participants in your county. She suggested county Farm Bureaus put a label with their county Farm Bureau name somewhere on the passports the county hands out.
To learn more about Georgia Farm Bureau's Ag in the Classroom Program visit https://gfb.ag/AITC. To learn more about GFB's Women's Leadership Program visit www.gfb.ag/WomensLeadership . For more info about our Young Farmers & Ranchers' Program visit www.gfb.ag/yfr .Visit www.gfb.ag/cfm to learn more about the Georgia Farm Bureau Certified Farm Market & Passport program.