By Aaron Shier, NFU Government Relations Representative
Part of what makes National Farmers Union (NFU) a successful and credible political organization is its grassroots structure. NFU’s policy-setting procedure is completely driven by the organization’s ~200,000 farmer and rancher members, and the results directly guide our advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C.
The policy process begins each year at the local or county level, where Farmers Union members develop policy proposals based on their experiences, concerns, aspirations, and understanding of farm policy. Individuals are then elected to serve as delegates for their state or regional Farmers Union conventions, during which they have the opportunity to debate and vote on policy proposals along with other delegates from across the region. From there, a small subset of delegates are elected to represent that state or region’s interests during the policy debate at National Farmers Union’s annual convention.
But the locally-led policy making process begins at the national level long before the annual convention. In early January, NFU’s Policy Committee meets in Washington, D.C. , going line-by-line through the organization’s policy document, proposing, debating and adopting changes. They also meet with Capitol Hill staff and industry experts to discuss emerging issues and the evolving political landscape. The committee members are nominated by their state or regional Farmers Union presidents and selected to ensure a group that represents the diversity of American agriculture and Farmers Union membership.
The hard work of the Policy Committee sets the foundation for the full and open policy debate and adoption process at NFU’s annual convention a few months later. The delegate body debates, amends and votes both on the committee’s proposed changes as well as changes proposed by the delegates themselves. After two days of discussion and debate, the policy book and its many changes are adopted. Before the convention concludes, the delegate body also considers and adopts Special Orders of Business, which sets the organization’s priorities for the year ahead.
This democratic, grassroots, member-driven process is the lifeblood of National Farmers Union. It is essential for ensuring that all voices in the organization are heard equally, and that the voices of farmers, ranchers, and rural residents across the country can speak loudly and clearly in Washington, D.C. in support of family agriculture.
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