On the Trail

Travels with MFBF’s State Staff and Volunteer Leaders

Montana Farm Bureau wants to keep you “in the know” with the federation’s activities. Tune in regularly to see what your county leaders are up to and how MFBF is promoting agriculture!

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June 14th, 2016: How to make an impact, straight from the horses’ mouth


We’ve all heard a hundred different versions of a workshop teaching us how to communicate with our elected officials.  Build relationships, tell a story, they say….it’s really much easier than you think, they say.  Well, do ‘they’ really have any idea what they’re talking about?

Montana legislators

Representatives Jeff Welborn and Christy Clark, and Senator Rick Ripley offered their insights and shared how they like to receive information from constituents at the 2016 Montana Farm Bureau Summer Conference.

Turns out they do; according to panel of Montana legislators who spoke during the MFBF Summer Conference in Great Falls.  Representatives Jeff Welborn and Christy Clark, and Senator Rick Ripley offered their insights and shared how they like to receive information from constituents.

Here are their five tips for being a better constituent and communicating effectively with your legislator.

1. Relationships are important

Rep. Christy Clark told the group, “If you’re not communicating with your legislator and researching issues before the session begins, you’re already behind the eight ball.”  So, those nagging workshop presenters and Farm Bureau staffers aren’t just blowing smoke; it’s important to contact your legislator and begin creating a relationship. It can be as simple as introducing yourself, explaining your expertise in agriculture and inviting them to contact you if they have questions.

Another great option is for the county Farm Bureau to host a candidate’s forum, an open house event, or a farm and ranch tour for local elected officials.

2. Tell a story

During the 2015 legislative session, legislators saw nearly 1,200 bills in four months.  That’s a lot of paperwork to sort through and details to understand. That’s why we need to be specific when asking a legislator to vote with us on a certain bill. Don’t just ask them to vote ‘yes’ on SB 1234; show them how it impacts you and provide information to help them make a decision.

It’s unfair to ask a legislator to make a vote simply because you asked them too. They have a tough job and do care about the outcome, so as constituents we need to be organized and help them make the best decisions possible.

3. Become a Farm Bureau member

Now for just a little horn tooting—throughout the panel discussion the legislators reiterated that membership organizations are powerful when it comes to influencing lawmakers. As Senator Rick Ripley put it, “Farm Bureau is the best represented ag group in Helena,” and that’s because we have the power of the grassroots supporting all of our policy positions. Legislators look for that kind of influence and guidance when deciding how to vote.

When you join Farm Bureau, you too have the ability and the voice to shape those policy positions.

4. Keep it classy, Farm Bureau

While not something we hear about regularly, the panel also advised constituents to be conscious of their decorum and presentation when emailing or leaving messages.

We’re all passionate about specific issues and it can be a challenge not to let our emotions get the best of us. But the panel said nothing hurts a cause more than unprofessionalism from constituents.

A quick tip for keeping ourselves in check: don’t send anything when you’re angry.  If you wouldn’t say it when having a face to face conversation it probably shouldn’t be said at all.

5. Just do it

Earlier we mentioned how effective grassroots membership organizations can be. While we’re proud of MFBF’s influence among state lawmakers we’re only as good as the grassroots supporting us. When it comes time to implement the policies created by Farm Bureau members, just do it.

Please take a few moments to respond to that action alert (be sure to add a person touch!), leave a message for your legislator, attend a Calling on the Capitol event, or testify in person.

Bottom line; the power is in the grassroots and the legislators will listen. So, next time Farm Bureau asks you to send an email, make a phone call, or maybe testify in person we hope you realize how valuable and influence your voice really is.





June 2nd, 2016: Moving outside our comfort zone to innovate for Montana agriculture

Innovation can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow. It’s often easier to stick by tradition and doing things “the way we’ve always done them.” While tradition has it’s place, innovation pushes us outside that comfort zone; it forces change and adaptation and challenges the norm.


Innovative ideas at Summer Conference

The third prong of this year’s theme won’t disappoint.  The Summer Conference INNOVATE track on Wednesday, June 8 hosts high quality speakers sharing their insights on in the importance of innovation in agriculture.  John Helle, a multi-generational sheep rancher and Farm Bureau member from Dillon will share how his family diversified their business with the Duckworth Wool Company.

Jon Knokey, Manager of Technology Alliances & Strategy with John Deere, will discuss how innovative technology has changed the face of agriculture and what types of new innovation the future may hold.

Don’t miss out on the opportunities in store at Summer Conference!  Missed the June 1 registration deadline??  No worries, just give us a call at the MFBF offices at 587-3153 to register over the phone!

Innovation in how we communicate 

In order to remain a relevant and credible voice for Montana agriculture, Montana Farm Bureau members must be innovative too. That’s why Farm Bureau is constantly striving to provide the best knowledge and resources available to our membership.  It’s why we encourage county Farm Bureaus to think outside the box when it comes to event planning and program ideas.

Over the years, Farm Bureau has innovated in a number of ways.  Time is money, and we want to give information to our membership in a timely fashion and get the most bang for our buck.  That’s why you can now find all the News Brief and Spokesman online, we’ve added this blog and utilize the Voter Voice program to contact members with their elected officials with the click of your mouse.

We’ve developed ready-to-use resources like Neighbor to Neighbor packets and the Ready, Set, Grow Member Recruitment Toolkit.  These are all designed to help county Farm Bureaus manage members recruitment and retention efforts with ease.

Connecting with customers and sharing our stories prompts innovation as well. We have the brightest and most passionate farmer and rancher membership who strive to advocate for our industry. Through the Young Farmer and Rancher Hoofin’ it for Hunger race, the Women’s Leadership Ronald McDonald Cooking events and the Animal Care Campaign, we’ve established innovative avenues to reach out to customers and others who aren’t familiar with our organization or agriculture.


June 2nd, 2016: How Montana’s farmers & ranchers will influence food & ag conversations

Farm Bureau members know the power of influence.  We live in a media driven world powered by instant access to information on any topic imaginable. Because of social media, the circle of people we influence, and vice versa, is now global in scope and anyone can be an influencer to Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Farmers and ranchers should always be the key influencers when it comes to agriculture.  Here are a few ways Farm Bureau helps make that possible.


You’re the reason MFBF is influential

The grassroots are the powerhouse behind Farm Bureau’s influence as an ag organization. We are the collective voice of agriculture in Montana and as a member, you’re behind the wheel when it comes to steering our policies and positions.

In return, MFBF wants to provide members with the best training and resources available to help farmers and ranchers further our agricultural policies within their own communities.  Through the Farm Bureau blog and training workshops we help members hone social media and interview skills.

Providing access to high quality information and industry experts helps members remain well versed on current agricultural issues. Giving county Farm Bureaus tools and resources to connect with elected officials and communicate effectively helps foster positive relationships and further MFBF’s policy.

Grow your influence at Summer Conference

The Influence track, scheduled for Wednesday, June 8 during Summer Conference, is jam packed with information and resources to help you become an effective influencer.  Whether you like to stay close to home and visit with friends and neighbors about ag issues, or you like to go big with a social media platform there are plenty of tips and tricks for you here!

Johnna Miller of AFBF will share ‘Ways to Advocate from the Farm Gate’ and MFBF’s own Laura Nelson will be on hand to help sharpen those social media skills; with a few short steps, each of us has the ability to be a savvy social media star and Laura will show you how!

Missed the June 1 registration deadline for Summer Conference??  Have no fear—simply call the MFBF offices at 587-3153 to register over the phone!

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