KFB Candid Conversation:  Kentucky Farm Bureau First Vice President Eddie Melton

Posted on Dec 5, 2017

KFB Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues facing the agricultural industry in a question and answer format with a member of the agricultural community. In this column, KFB First Vice President Eddie Melton talks about  his duties as the organization’s Resolutions Committee Chair and how important developing policy recommendations is to the organization that stands as the “Voice of Kentucky Agriculture.”

What exactly is the Resolutions Committee and what is its purpose?

In our policy book, we have recommendations from county Farm Bureaus. The members in these counties all have the opportunity to present resolutions concerning local, state and national issues. The Resolutions Committee is comprised of members elected from each of the 11 Farm Bureau districts across the state, along with the Women’s Committee Chair and the Vice-Chair of the Young Farmer Committee. There are two members from each district. As the resolutions come in from all the counties and our 26 advisory committees, those recommendations are categorized and compiled into a binder for each of the committee members to study. There are approximately 1,000 resolution recommendations each year that are reviewed during a two and a half day session. In going over each one, members decide if the resolution already exist in some way in the KFB policy book or if something needs to be changed in that existing policy or if something new needs to be added.  The committee will then make these recommendations to voting delegates at the KFB Annual Meeting.      

How important is this resolutions process to the overall mission of KFB?

I think our resolutions process is what makes KFB what it is. It is probably the single most important thing that we do throughout the year. As we get policies in from all these groups, it demonstrates the process of coming from the grassroots level. It comes from our regular membership and it is specific as to what is important to them as it relates to commodities, and issues on the farm, in their communities, and in our state and nation. Our state officials, legislators and our Congressional delegation knows how our process works and I believe that is why they listen to what KFB has to say because they know we represent our membership. Once our members have voted on their resolutions, the KFB Board bases their annual priority issues on what those members deem as important to them. From that grass roots effort, these recommendations can ultimately become a law that affects not only our members or our farming communities, but all of the citizens in the state. And we have seen this many times.

How do you make sure all these resolutions have a chance to make it to the point of being voted on at the annual meeting?

In considering policy recommendations at the Resolutions Committee level, we discuss every one of those presented to the committee. Some of those make it through and some don’t but that is what the committee has been elected to do and it is a democratic process. If the committee chooses not to send it on, that particular resolution can still be brought up to voting delegates at the annual meeting. There again, it is given every chance to go through that process.

For those who don’t know about Farm Bureau’s advocacy efforts, or how the policy process works, explain the diversity in the kinds of policy adopted by KFB.

There are many things in our policy book that aren’t tied directly to agriculture although those policies are directly related to our rural communities. For instance, one of our largest sections in the KFB state policy book is related to education which is important to all of us and very important to our membership. Healthcare is another issue very important to our members and really to everyone. It is a big topic right now and we have policy about that issue, such as Associated Health Plans. Make no mistake, we have policies about agriculture and that is who we are, but we also care about other things that not only affect all of our members, but every citizen in Kentucky. We talk a lot about our rural communities because that is where most of our membership lives and it’s important that we represent them and serve as their voice. 

This grassroots type of advocacy has lasted for nearly a century at KFB. Do you think other organizations take notice of how the organization develops it priority issues?

I definitely think other organizations look at KFB and see that we can get it done when it comes to adopting policy and moving it forward. Our membership depends on us and the meaningful thing is, those members give us ideas to go through that process which we will ultimately advocate for. Other organizations may only utilize a few people to make the decisions on what policies to promote but that is not how we do it. It is our membership that sets our policy. We know that our members will make the phone calls to our lawmakers at all levels when it comes to supporting these polices. They talk to their local officials about what’s important to them and don’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it. I think that is what makes us effective. Our membership votes and they know their elected officials and those elected officials know most of them. 

While the Resolutions Committee always meets in the late fall, doesn’t this process really take place throughout the year in some ways?

The county Farm Bureau meetings consist of regular members coming together monthly throughout the year to discuss issues going on in their communities or in the state and at the national level. It is through those discussions that one idea can come through and be carried to policy development district meetings held in July across the state, then on to advisory committee meetings, to the Resolutions committee, to the voting delegates and ultimately into our policy and priority issues. Often these issues prompted legislation action and become law.  Our membership knows that KFB is noted as the Voice of Agriculture and they want their voices heard to insure this process and the success of the organization continues for another 100 years.