Presidents Conference . . .Posted on Mar 1, 2014
“I realize I’m preaching to the choir,” keynote speaker Bruce Vincent said to participants at the Presidents and Vice Presidents Conference last month. Vincent is a Montana logger who has become an acclaimed motivational speaker as a result of a rugged battle with the federal government over logging rights. His passion is conservation stewardship and the importance of activism.
While the county Farm Bureau leaders are indeed ones to step up to the plate to deal with issues, it’s always beneficial to remind them (as Vincent did in brilliant fashion) of the dangers of complacency, said KFB President Mark Haney.
Vincent, who has been profiled by “60 Minutes” and major publications like The New York times and Wall Street Journal, tells a captivating story of what led him to carry the sword for promoting activism. His target is what he calls “the conflict industry,” radical groups working to change the way farmers, loggers and others practice their trade. He told the large group of county Farm Bureau leaders that although he lives 90 miles from a farm, he’s a Montana Farm Bureau member because “I appreciate what they do and the information they provide.”
In his experience, the logging company that his father founded in 1968 was all but shut down over a dispute with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about protecting grizzly bears. Vincent told the story of how he organized a group to fight the battle, but lost because of a misguided strategy stemming from inexperience.
The most bitter lesson he learned, he said, was “in this country, policy is not based on reality; it’s on public perception.”
Also: “There’s a thin line between environmental sensibility and environmental insanity; and we are crossing it.”
Vincent said farmers need to be on guard because historically beneficial laws like the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act have gradually been altered over the years by the various administrations in Washington. These old laws and programs are subject to adjustments that could further undermine the original intent of the law, he warned.
And then there are the special interest groups with agendas detrimental to agriculture. Said Vincent: “The conflict industry that was working on forests is looking for a new piñata. Forestry was first. Agriculture could be next.”
Farmers, he added, have a golden opportunity to move forward in the “public perception” category because of the urban interest in where food comes from and how it is produced.
“Urban people love rural areas; they have a desire to protect what they perceive as the last best places. They are passionate about environmental protection. Problem is the public doesn’t know you. They are looking at the stuff that others put before them and they don’t know what to choose as the real story.
“You have the best story in the world to tell about what you do. Look at how far you’ve come. You are the green choice. You have to tell that story.”
A big plus, he said, is that “the next generation is starving for a future that includes some humanity; they’re not into the conflict industry. They want to have a connection to us.”
Vincent concluded by urging the county leaders to stay the course because “we’ve got some uphill climbing to do for rural America.”
Among other highlights of the two-day conference:
*Successful local programs were highlighted and discussed, including a member services program in Russell County, an ag education program in Greenup County and the expansion of advertising, member services and scholarships in Christian County.
*Organization Division Director Matthew W. Ingram conducted a session on fiscal reporting and recordkeeping.
*Estate Planning Specialist Rob Pittman outlined the KFB program.
*KFB’s lobbying team provided an update on the state legislative session and Commodity Division Director L. Joe Cain summarized the new farm bill.
*Brandon Smith of USDA spoke about the crop insurance program and other risk management tools.
In his remarks to the county leaders, President Mark Haney said the event “has a great atmosphere” because of the local leaders who “represent an organization that is so dear to all of us.”
The Pulaski County farmer noted that 2013 “was a banner year” for KFB.
“We have much to be thankful for,” he said. “I think the success of the Federation lies with the county presidents. They are the ones who deliver what we need at the state level to succeed.”
Tagged Post Topics Include: Brandon Smith, Bruce Vincent, Christian County, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Estate Planning, Greenup County, Joe Cain, KFB, Legislative Update, Mark Haney, Matthew Ingram, Montana, President's and Vice-President's Conference, recordkeeping, Rob Pittman, Russell County, US Fish and Wildlife, USDA