If you read LEO lately in print or online, you probably know that Editor Aaron Yarmuth took a hard stand against the Kentucky Farm Bureau for its opposition to gay marriage.
In the “Kentucky Farm Bureau Policies” handbook — distributed to state and federal legislators — the bureau says: “The institution of marriage should only be recognized as the legal union of a man and a woman,” and “We are opposed to any state-supported agency providing benefits to ‘domestic’ partners.”
The bureau is involved in selling insurance, but it also describes itself, on its website, as “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.”
So why would “the voice of agriculture” be interested in gay marriage and LGTBQ rights, and how does it reach those positions?
LEO asked the bureau to explain, although its response does not answer the first question specifically, other than to say its members “develop and vote on agricultural, fiscal, social and other policy ideas they believe are important to Kentucky,” and “we do respect the diversity of opinions that exist across our state.”
If the bureau’s process for developing policy is any measure, it underscores that Louisville Metro, which has a fairness ordinance and majority Democratic registration, is not like most of Kentucky.
But we knew that.
By Kentucky Farm Bureau
Kentucky Farm Bureau is a voluntary organization of farm families and their allies dedicated to serving as the voice of agriculture reaching every corner of Kentucky with a county organization, volunteer leaders and offices in all 120 counties. And like the Bluegrass state we call home, KFB has changed in many ways since our founding in 1919. Even as we have grown we are proud to say one thing hasn’t changed — our mission to serve rural Kentucky and enhance the quality of life for all.
We are a membership organization that cares about Kentucky. We have more than 475,000 member families statewide, largely in rural Kentucky, and we work hard to protect their interests. Regardless of the topic, KFB speaks with the voice of our membership. Their priorities, crafted through a democratic process, determine our public policy positions.
Our public policy positions are developed from ideas offered by grassroots members, originating at county Farm Bureau meetings. Our members develop and vote on agricultural, fiscal, social, and other policy ideas they believe are important to Kentucky. The legislative policies approved at the county level move to the state level through a free and fair democratic process. This process ensures that the will of the majority, not the opinion of any one individual, is reflected in our public policy positions.
You may disagree with some of our public policy positions; we understand disagreement. We have 475,000 member families, and when we get together there are differences of opinion. We are proud to serve as a unifying entity for thousands of people who don’t always agree on everything. That is why our legislative policy process is essential — because it recognizes the will of the majority. Our process is reliable and consistent, it never changes.
We do not apologize for a process that ultimately reflects the majority of our members, but we do respect the diversity of opinions that exist across our state. We don’t ask any individual or organization to change their opinion or process if it conflicts with ours, but we do ask people to respect our process. We are fortunate to live in a country where we have the freedom to pursue a democratic process. When our members speak, we listen.
Even if your organization’s or your personal views are different than KFB’s public policy positions, we should focus on what binds us together as Kentuckians. We all want to make Kentucky a better place to live. That’s why we’ve raised over $10 million for Kentucky charities at our annual Country Ham Breakfast and Auction, including $600,000 this August! In 2016, state and county Farm Bureaus provided nearly half a million dollars in scholarships to students across the state to help pay for post-secondary education. We are also using our food growing expertise to engage in the war on hunger as a member of the first-ever Hunger Task Force led by Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.
Another thing on which we can all agree is that discrimination is wrong. At the Kentucky Farm Bureau, we don’t discriminate. We follow the law and our insurance policies follow the law, no matter what you’ve read. From the eastern mountains to the cities in between to the western flatlands, My Old Kentucky Home is a place we can all be proud of. KFB’s mission is to serve Kentucky; we’ve done so for 97 years and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.