Farm Bureau betters ag life

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Note: This is the third in an ongoing series about local service clubs. If you are a member of a service club that you believe deserves recognition, please e-mail Evan Wade.

Though they aren't a "service club" in the strictest sense of the phrase, Clay County's Farm Bureau does a lot to help area agricultural businesses.

Jack Knust, President of Clay County Farm Bureau, Inc., and Marvin Shopmeyer, a Farm Bureau member, believe that the organization has a lot to offer the community. Besides being one of the largest lobbying groups in the state, Farm Bureau sponsors state seminars and provides free programs to grade school children, among other things.

"Farm Bureau was originally designed to improve rural life and farm income in 1919," Knust said, "and it's just grown from there."

Shopmeyer urged that while their organization is related to the insurance of the same name, the two aren't the same thing.

"The organization runs the insurance," he said, "not the other way around."

According to Knust, the organization has many goals, including "trying to make school kids understand where food comes from -- soil," and "helping people better understand the story of agriculture."

Most recently, the group provided every city government member with a stat booklet and hosted a luncheon for the same government members. In the past, they built the show arena at the fairgrounds and helped with the horse barn there.

"We have done so many things. We believe in improvement and morals, and our members show this," Knust said.

The group also takes a strong hand in educating grade and high-school students on the agricultural life. They do this in many ways, including sponsoring and holding programs for these students and helping the 4-H program out.

"We're big supporters of 4-H," Shopmeyer said. "We work with their extension, the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and support them in other ways."

In their recent "Farming the Classroom" program, Farm Bureau sent all Clay County third graders to the Yegerlenhner dairy farm, where they observed the making of cheese, cottage cheese, and ice cream. They also helped sponsor Ag Day Safety Day for all county fourth graders.

"We do more than that, though, and we have many concerns," Shopmeyer said. "For an example, three years ago Tiger Woods was on the Corn Flakes box. He got paid more for that picture than the farmers who grew the corn did. It seems like the farmer's share keeps getting smaller."

The group is currently trying to promote the usage of ethanol, a corn product that can fuel vehicles. The product, Knust said, is "win-win," in that it is cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient than normal gasoline. They also promote the use of bio-diesel.

Farm Bureau meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month. One does not have to be a farmer to be a member, though he must have a "voice in agriculture," according to Knust, to be a voting member of the organization. At the group's annual meeting, their approximate 200 members sow up to vote on officers, approve policies, and mingle. Their state convention, "the big deal," according to Knust, draws over 2,000 members.

On a larger level, Farm Bureau has two state lobbyists and one national one. These persons lobby for property and inventory tax issues, among other things. On the county level, the group tries its hardest to make agricultural life better and safer for everyone involved.

"There's very little agricultural voice left," Knust said, "but Farm Bureau is the biggest part of that remaining voice."

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