By Jeremy Christian Nagel
LANSING — Kicking off Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) annual Lansing Legislative Seminar was a brief birthday party celebrating the first 40 years of AgriPac, the organization’s political action committee. The brainchild of Al Almy, then director of MFB’s public policy division, AgriPac has become an axis around which MFB’s political activity revolves.
Almy served as AgriPac’s secretary from its inception in 1978 until his retirement in 2005, and was on hand Tuesday morning to share the story of its genesis to an early-bird crowd of legislative seminar attendees at the Lansing Center.
“One day in 1976 I was walking down a hallway in the capitol building, and out stepped Rep. George Prescott, from the Tawas City area,” Almy recalled. “He looked me in the eye and asked, ‘When is Farm Bureau going to help candidates get elected?’”
Taking the idea back to Farm Bureau headquarters, Almy met with MFB Executive Secretary Bob Braden and President Elton Smith—to a mixed reception.
“Elton was taken aback. A political action committee was quite a new venture” at the time, Almy said, but his arguments were convincing enough to turn over Farm Bureau’s grass-roots machinery. “A small committee was named to examine it further. They met with legislators, surveyed county Farm Bureau boards, community groups and individual members.”
Almy recalls the reception remaining mixed throughout those tentative early steps.
“Legislators were supportive; county boards of directors were opposed; community groups were slightly in favor; individual members strongly in favor,” he said.
Still, support was adequate to set the policy system in motion. The PAC concept became a probable issue offered up for discussion, leading to several county recommendations that made it to—and through—the state policy development committee. Delegates to MFB’s 1978 annual meeting approved the resulting policy recommendation, and AgriPac was born.
Almy coined “Friend of Agriculture” to name the group’s endorsement and implemented county-level candidate evaluation committees to give the organization’s grass roots pride of place at the beginning of the endorsement process.
“Almost always—with only occasional exceptions—AgriPac has endorsed the candidates recommended by county Farm Bureaus,” Almy said. “It has had a solid organizational foundation and is operated with sound principles.
“Many state Farm Bureaus and non-Farm Bureau organizations have copied some of the basic principles of how it was founded and how it operates.
“I treasure the memories, and I want to tell you—I say to AgriPac: congratulations on 40 years and I hope you have 40 successful more.”