The American Farm Bureau was created in 1919 to disseminate college research results to farmers, and has since grown into one of America's strongest lobbying organizations, with 6 million members and affiliated services and member benefits that include highly respected insurance companies. Each county in the nation and Puerto Rico has a Farm Bureau organization. Those county groups belong to a state federation such as Arkansas Farm Bureau, and the state federations to the American Farm Bureau. Each organization is autonomous, but all work together on behalf of farmers, ranchers and rural people.
In Arkansas, the trying times of the Great Depression and an early lack of support led to two failed attempts to get a state Farm Bureau off the ground in the 1920s. However, they say the third time is the charm, and that was indeed the case for Arkansas Farm Bureau. J. F. Thompkins, who would eventually become the organization’s first president, met with 15 farmers and ranchers from across the state and Dan T. Gray of the University of Arkansas College of Agriculture in 1935. With the full blessings of the American Farm Bureau, they voted to establish the Arkansas Farm Bureau and set up an office in Little Rock.
According to Growing Arkansas, a collected history of Arkansas Farm Bureau, “Thompkins told anyone who would listen that he wanted a strong Farm Bureau for three reasons: first, so farmers could learn proper solutions to farming problems; second, a strong Farm Bureau could spread the correct information to influence public opinion about farming; and lastly … to fight for farmers’ rights in the state and national legislature and to oppose legislation that was not in the farmers’ best interest.”