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Baker optimistic about future of Farm Bureau

New EVP says ARFB must reflect founding principles, but be equipped for change

11/13/2013 at 2:48 p.m.

'Thinking Out Loud'

By Rodney Baker,
executive vice president, Arkansas Farm Bureau

This issue of Front Porch coincides with the beginning of my tenure as executive vice president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. I’m grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to continue serving this organization and its members.

I grew up in a farm family in northeast Arkansas, served as state FFA president, earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in agriculture. I have been fortunate to live out my passions with the Arkansas Farm Bureau for more than 36 years, most recently leading the lobbying and advocacy efforts.

The column title, Thinking Out Loud, is a reflection of how I operate with those I am closest. I usually arrange thoughts in my mind, while at the same time sharing them with others. It’s a process that has been helpful to me.

So indulge me, if you will, while I think out loud.

My vision of the future of Farm Bureau is an organization that continues to reflect the beliefs and purposes on which it was originally founded, but recognizes and is equipped to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing society. 

Farm Bureau exists to represent and serve you. To do this we effectively must be prepared to meet your needs and expectations.

The challenges we will face are complicated by the shrinking population of farmers and ranchers and successive generations farther removed from the land. Many of our challenges are familiar and will continue to grow in momentum and complexity. 

Public concerns about the environment and food safety are easily manipulated by alarmist groups against modern farming practices. There is a growing attitude that public opinion should trump science and property rights, and we must be ready to stand solidly with our family farms on these issues. The recent controversy surrounding the good folks at C&H hog farm in Newton County and court decisions on endangered species are examples of issues that can be skewed by outside forces.

To equip ourselves to face these challenges, we must embrace changes in technology that allow us to effectively connect with the public, as well as our own membership. 

We must also remain acutely aware that our greatest strength is our members, our county Farm Bureau organizations. Many already do a great job. Now, more than ever, it’s essential we all attend and actively participate in our county board meetings, annual meetings, and legislative functions. Our best work is done at the local level. These efforts are critical to the success of our organization. They’re also opportunities to develop and equip local leaders. Additional participation, training and attention to detail will result in stronger, more effective county organizations.

I’m optimistic about the future of Arkansas Farm Bureau. The work we do to improve conditions for farmers and ranchers is a part of our DNA and always will be. 

The ability of the farming and ranching community to feed, clothe and provide shelter to our state, our country and much of the world is one of America’s greatest strengths. It’s noble work and something for which we should all take great pride. Let’s continue the good work of this organization, embrace our challenges and prepare ourselves to meet the future.

Editor's Note: This column was originally published in the Nov.-Dec. issue of Front Porch magazine.

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