Many people in the agriculture community like to complain about the law, but only a select few take the time to do something about it. In the recent Grassroots newspaper published by the New York Farm Bureau (“NYFB”), there is a great article by Jeff Williams (on page 13) about how a New York agriculture producer took the initiative to change the law. The article highlighted efforts from Leonard Janiga, a beef, vegetable and crop farmer from Erie County, to change the Farmland Protection Program. Through his participation in the Program, he lost eligibility for the Farmers’ School Property Tax Program and subsequently had to pay thousands of dollars for property taxes.
The article explains how members of NYFB can take their idea to their county and discuss their concern. Then the idea can be submitted to the County Policy Development Committee for consideration. If the County Farm Bureau approves the policy resolution at its annual meeting then it then submitted to the NYFB Resolutions Committee in November. If the resolution is accepted then it is prepared for a vote at the New York Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. With a majority vote at the state annual meeting in December, the resolution becomes an official New York Farm Bureau policy. NYFB will then use its resources to lobby for this change at the state level. If the policy has national significance then New York Farm Bureau will submit the recommendation to be voted upon by the American Farm Bureau Federation (“AFBF”). A majority approval by AFBF puts that lobbying arm to work in Washington D.C.
At first glance, this might seem like a long arduous process; however, there is tremendous power having the weight of an agriculture organization such as New York Farm Bureau behind your policy recommendation. Through my experience with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association‘s (“NCBA”) Resolutions Committee, I was amazed how the small percentage of active members could make such a significant impact on beef policy.
What if you cannot get an agriculture organization to support your recommendation? It is impossible for every agriculture group to accurately represent the views of every single member. I disagree with some policy positions of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, and American Agri-Women — and yet I support these organizations whole heartedly. Do not get discouraged or think your membership dollars aren’t working hard for your industry if this happens. If you have a minority viewpoint on an agriculture law issue, continue to make your case to the membership. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to contact your national, state, and local elected representatives (whichever is the most appropriate) to explain why something needs changed. Elected officials really do listen to their constituents and sharing your viewpoint with them can truly make a difference.
Finally, it is important to also note that agriculture producers and agri-businesses can help change the law by voting. Take part of the democratic process and exercise your right to vote this fall. Now is the perfect time to make sure that you are registered. If you don’t vote, you cannot complain about the laws that affect your livelihood.
"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."