Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Voice of Kentucky AgriculturePosted on Jul 31, 2017
Farm Bureau is a voluntary organization of farm families and their allies dedicated to serving as the voice of agriculture by identifying problems, developing solutions and taking actions which will improve net farm income, achieve better economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for all.
For nearly one hundred years, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) has served as the "Voice of Kentucky Agriculture," representing the interests of agricultural producers and rural communities. The organization was founded at a meeting in Louisville, in November 1919. With nearly 500,000 members, KFB is one of the largest Farm Bureaus in the nation.
Kentucky Farm Bureau has established a reputation as an effective advocate for its members. Its information products and member service programs are also well respected and highly successful.
Programs offered include Public Affairs, Farm Bureau Insurance and other member services, Women's Leadership Activities, Ag in the Classroom, Safety, Health and Wellness, Theft Reward, Estate Planning, Commodity Market Information, Scholarships, Certified Roadside Farm Markets and Young Farmers.
Our Executive Committee
Mark Haney, President, Kentucky Farm Bureau
Mark Haney has served as president of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation (KFB) and Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Companies since December 2008 and March 2009, respectively, following three years as the first vice president and seven years as second vice president of their Executive Committees.
He is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFB) Executive Committee, a director of the AFBF as a representative of the Southern region and a director of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company.
Mr. Haney is a past president of the Pulaski County Farm Bureau and the Kentucky Center for Cooperative Development.
The Pulaski County native produces apples, peaches, and beef cattle in partnership with his brother, Don, near Nancy, Kentucky. They also operate a Farm Bureau Certified Roadside Farm Market, selling fresh produce from the farm, as well as cider, jellies, baked goods and other products.
Kentucky Farm Bureau serves as the voice of agriculture and is the largest ag advocacy organization in the state, but more specifically, the organization enhances a way of life in the state from a variety of aspects; be it legislatively, a protection of assets, or advocating for the agriculture sector and rural economies; it’s all about what is best for Kentucky.
For many decades, KFB has been a leader in helping communities when it comes to education of youth, leadership development, governmental issues, economic development endeavors, and so much more and it begins in these local communities through the county Farm Bureau organizations and a process which sets our policy and priority issues.
Agriculture is the backbone of rural Kentucky, as it is nationwide, and KFB is there to fill a gap when it comes to keeping issues of importance related to the industry moving forward. But agriculture affects everyone, not just rural residents in farm communities. I see our role in supporting agriculture’s big picture as one that is based on a locally-centered, democratic system we have utilized as an organization since we began in 1919. We may have an issue that comes up with many different directions available to reach a solution, and through that democratic process we move through those differences to ultimately support what is best for our state, our farm communities and our rural economies. We want to be a part of varied interests and commodity groups and them, a part of us.
It’s important to all of us to have a solid farm economy. KFB is recognized both statewide and nationally as a very strong organization; one of convictions, clarity and fairness. And it’s because of what we have done here, in Kentucky, and through our vast membership of more than 470,000 member families, we are the fourth largest Farm Bureau in the nation.
This strength allows us to be noticed in what we say and stand for when it comes to our issues and the well-being of our communities both rural and urban. By having that strong voice nationally, we can be assured that Kentucky will always have a seat at the table during discussions and decisions of federal policy as it relates to agriculture and rural development. We have strong leadership in our local communities and a very talented staff which contribute to this recognition.
But there is a role to play in issues outside the realm of agriculture and we support many, such as health and safety, insurance matters, taxes, and education. Our members take a stand on issues they feel are important and we will continue, for many years, to take those stands while being tolerant of other ideas, as well. It’s something we accept and embrace as part of our democratic freedom.
Eddie Melton, First Vice-President
Eddie Melton serves as first vice-president of KFB and Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Companies.
He was elected as first vice president in December 2010, following two years as second vice president of the Federation and one year on the insurance company’s executive committee.
Mr. Melton represents District Two as a member of the Federation’s board of directors and is chair of both the State Resolutions Committee and Health Care Task Force.
He is an active member of the Webster County Farm Bureau where he has served in a variety of leadership positions, including president and chairman of the young farmer committee. He also serves as a director of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company.
Mr. Melton produces corn, soybeans and beef cattle on his farming operations.
The policy process at KFB is a key component in understanding who we are as an organization and what issues are important to us. Representing an industry that affects all Kentuckians, our policies are related to a number of topics in addition to those directly related to agriculture, including research, environmental issues, transportation and economic development, to name a few.
Each year, policy resolutions are channeled from county Farm Bureaus to the state organization and reviewed by advisory committees and a Resolutions Committee comprised of members from the 11 districts that make up KFB across Kentucky.
During our state annual meeting, the chosen recommendations are taken to voting delegates who set forth our policy for the coming year along with a list of our upcoming priority issues. This same process is followed for national policy, as well.
In keeping with the grassroots origins of KFB, policy recommendations are a critical component in allowing county Farm Bureaus a voice in what issues are supported by the organization. These recommendations really exemplify who we are as a farm organization and what issues we consider to be important. For instance, education is one of the more prominent topics in our policy book demonstrating the importance our members place on the subject. If our members recommend a policy, it validates how important that is to them. This system has been in place for nearly a century and gives a sense of ownership to those local organizations in KFB as a whole.
If not for the input we see at the county level, it’s safe to say KFB would not be the strong advocate for agriculture that it is today. As more and more people become farther removed from the farm, it takes more efforts to keep them informed and our members, who are located from one side of the state to the other, do just that; help to educate the public on ag matters with correct information. We as farmers, should never apologize for what we do but rather educate the public with the actual facts and information about the industry.
Fritz Giesecke, Second Vice-President
Fritz Giesecke serves as Second Vice President of KFB and Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. He was elected to the Executive Committee in December 2010.
Mr. Giesecke represents District Three on the Federation’s board while serving as chair of the Beef Cattle Advisory Committee and as a member of the Health Care Task Force. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Meat Export Federation representing KFB members.
He is an active member of the Hart County Farm Bureau where he has served in a variety of leadership positions, including county president. His cattle operation is located in Horse Cave, Kentucky.
There is at least one county Farm Bureau office located in each of the 120 counties of Kentucky, something that makes the organization unique in that, no matter where you live, be it in the more rural areas of the state or in our more urban areas, Farm Bureau has a presence and is there to help better the lives of each and every member.
Taking care of our members is something KFB takes very seriously. In fact, it is at the very core of our existence. Having offices in each county assures each member family they have that connection to the organization as a whole both at the state level but also from a national perspective. When it comes to agriculture advocacy, KFB has long been a strong voice in policy and priority issues for the AFB. This local presence has helped KFB become a strong advocate for farm communities here and in some respects for all the country. This strength is not only critical to those rural area economies but also to the state’s overall economic well-being.
Local Farm Bureaus are at the heart of creating policy and priority issues that are reviewed and refined annually. We have seen many initiatives move forward to become organizational programs and even laws because of the involvement that begins at the county level. Often an idea arises first in our local communities whether it is related to a farmer trying to protect his or her livestock, a tax issue or something regarding natural resources such as adequate water supplies. Having a presence at that county level ensures issues, no matter where they might arise in the state, will be heard.
David S. Beck, Executive Vice-President
David S. Beck began serving as executive vice president for KFB on January 1, 1995. In this position he has overall administrative responsibility for KFB’s programs and services, and he manages the organization's staff and its finances.
Starting his career with KFB in May 1977 as an area field service director in central Kentucky, Mr. Beck was named to the chief executive officer's position by the Kentucky Farm Bureau Board of Directors, following 12 years of service as director of governmental affairs and assistant to the executive vice president.
He is also serving as corporate secretary for the Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Companies and is a member of their Executive Management Team.
In addition to his service to many civic and church organizations, in 1992 he was selected Outstanding Agriculture Alumnus of the Year by the Murray State University (MSU) Agriculture Alumni Association and in 2016 was selected as a Distinguished Alumni by the Murray State Alumni Association.
KFB got its start in much the same way as other state Farm Bureaus, by way of business groups and organizations who knew the value in a strong agriculture community and how valuable that farm economy was to the overall well-being of those states, as a whole. At the same time farmers were looking for an organization that could help with issues that were important to them. The local businesses and chambers of commerce knew that if the farm community did well so did the business community.
In the early 1900’s the Louisville Board of Trade teamed with the Kentucky Bankers Association to create a strategic plan for the future of Kentucky. Meetings were held around the state and a plan containing several ideas was developed including the creation of a farm organization to represent agriculture and improve net farm income. KFB was created in 1919 and was one of the first states to be involved in creating the AFB.
To this day, even though KFB is led by farmers, we have good relationships with the business community because it takes all of us to move Kentucky forward.
Even in the early days of the organization, the need for member benefits was recognized and creating those benefits became a priority. Insurance was hard to come by in rural Kentucky back then, including insurance for health and protection of assets. This need continued through the 1920’s and 1930’s.
But, in the 1940’s we partnered with a new company called Blue Cross for health care while working with other state Farm Bureaus that already had these types of insurance benefits to get property and casualty assistance for Kentucky members. Eventually those insurance benefits would grow from protecting just livestock to covering farms, homes, automobiles and the rest is history.
Today, KFB Member Services works extensively to identify needs of member families so benefits can be added or modified to fit those needs. Benefits for the farm, for the home; identity theft, security, health, travel, automobiles and banking are an example of what KFB does to assist its member families in making their lives better. Member services have helped to stabilize membership of which we have had consistent growth for over 50 years in this state.
Time after time the process of discovering a situation or an idea through local Farm Bureaus, advisory committee meetings or at annual meeting gatherings, has led to solutions, new regulations or even new laws and it has worked well for Kentucky and the member families we represent.
Some examples that stand out include the Farmland Assessment Constitutional amendment which has had a tremendous impact on the protection of farmland. House Bill 44, which was passed in 1979, contains a provision that limits annual revenue from property taxes to no more than a four percent hike plus new growth. This law benefits every property owner whether on a farm or in an urban area. In the 1980’s there were problems with grain elevator bankruptcies but thanks to a new law supported by KFB, there is now a farmer financed, state government administered insurance for grain; and this year, KFB was instrumental in getting House Bill 529 passed, which will create the Kentucky Water Resource Board to help water related issues in a proactive way.
At the federal level, we’ve been involved in every Farm Bill and not just the language but the implementation of the bill as well as working with the EPA upon its creation on matters such as protection of wetlands.
We’ve also been involved at both the state and federal levels in the development of tax policies, positive ground water and water quality legislation, the tobacco quota buyout and implementation of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, environment issues and advocacy for better roads.
And these are just a few of the many initiatives in which KFB involvement helped to bring about positive change for all Kentuckians.
While we are a farm organization, so much of what KFB does affects all Kentuckians. Issues and ideas of which our members support are important to them whether it is education, transportation, taxes or environmental policy. All KFB policies are member driven and we encourage participation at all levels of the organization.
A couple of great examples of our initiatives that have benefited so many include our scholarship foundation and the tradition of our Country Ham Breakfast and Auction held each year at the state fair.
Since 1953, approximately 1,637 scholarships worth over $2.53 million dollars have been awarded to Kentucky students by the KFB Education Foundation.
The annual Country Ham Breakfast & Auction has enabled KFB to help raise nearly $10 million for dozens of Kentucky charities, educational institutions and non-profit organizations through the 52-year history of the auction. All money raised through this event is donated directly to the charity of the winning bidder’s choice.
Above all, KFB is Kentucky and our members Kentuckians. A good, strong, viable agriculture sector helps build and strengthen our rural communities and benefits all.