Advocacy in Action: The 2020 KFB Congressional Tour

Posted on Feb 27, 2020

Volunteer leaders show up in a big way to meet with the state’s Congressional delegation

In keeping with their advocacy efforts in 2020, nearly 350 Kentucky Farm Bureau members made their way to Washington, D.C. as part of the organization’s annual Congressional Tour.

Each year, KFB’s Executive Committee leads this trip that includes updates on national agricultural issues, meetings with their Congressional members, and a question-and-answer session with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

KFB President Mark Haney said he is never surprised at the level of involvement exhibited by members of the organization.

“KFB’s members are known for being knowledgeable about the issues that affect their family farms and rural communities and are not shy at all when it comes to advocating for the very industry that is their livelihood,” he said. “Our Congressional delegations knows this and knows that we will show up in a big way each year.”

KFB 2020 Congressional Tour delegation

By bringing such a large group, KFB has earned a reputation of being one of the strongest Farm Bureaus in the country when it comes to being a voice for agriculture.

This year’s tour included a meeting with American Farm Bureau Federation leadership and USDA officials, to learn of federal ag issues and efforts to address these farm-related matters.

Paul Schlegel, AFBF’s Vice President of Public Affairs, addressed attendees about some of the issues that organization is working on with Congressional leaders. He said having so many KFB members make the trip to Washington to meet with the Congressional leaders, is important when it comes to the advocacy efforts of Farm Bureau.

“It underscores and amplifies the strength of Farm Bureau and there’s nothing more powerful in a democracy than getting the people to stand up and say what they care about,” said Schlegel. “And to have a group of this size, with this potential to have an impact on the processes, it’s just terrific.”

He also noted the strength of Farm Bureau’s grassroots advocacy does not go unnoticed by other organizations.

“I’ve worked in Washington D.C. for a number of years and I can tell you if I’m talking to the (organizations such as) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Retail Federation; they all look at Farm Bureau and they envy our grassroots, and our involvement, and our ability to weigh in on Capitol Hill,” said Schlegel. “Whether you’re talking (issues such as) climate change to farm labor, we are the key people and it’s a great position to be in. We don’t win every fight, but we know our members are engaged and involved, and I think everyone respects the fact, even if they don’t agree, they respect the fact we’re a key player.”

KFB members also heard from Chad Rupe, USDA’s Administrator for Rural Utilities who discussed rural broadband. He too, noted the importance of grassroots advocacy when it comes to solving issues like rural broadband. 

“I think local leadership is critical to be able to do these build-outs. If we don’t have people applying for funding; if we don’t have people engaging and figuring out how to solve the problem, and coming to find new solutions to old issues, then we’re really at a disadvantage if we don’t have that local leadership,” he said.

Rupe noted, in looking specifically at the broadband issue, that it is as vital a part of infrastructure needs as any other.  

“The needs of the roads and bridges and airports, all of those are critical because you’ve got to get your product to markets, but you have to have a market and you have to be able to sell your wares so, yes, the internet and access to it is absolutely critical to further support economic viability for our rural citizens,” he said.

Haney said one of the more exciting aspects of this year’s event is the fact that so many members were joining the Congressional Tour for the first time including the KFB Outstanding Youth winners and many Collegiate Farm Bureau members.

“These young people, and those coming for the first time, got to see KFB in action as members talked to their Congressional delegation about the issues they are facing on their farms every day. And that really sets an example for them to become involved in their local communities and to become more involved in Farm Bureau,” he said. “Afterall, it is this next generation who will take over as leaders, not only in their communities, but at KFB, as well. The more we can do to help them now, the better off all us will be when their time comes.”