By Jeremy C. Nagel
Especially in an election year, Farm Bureau’s engagement in the political process takes center stage as the organization raises its voice to elect farm-friendly lawmakers—Friends of Agriculture. Once in office, your on-staff policy counsels set to work bringing those legislators up to speed on the issues that keep farmers up at night. This is your organization’s bread and butter, and how it goes about advocating for your priorities in Lansing and Washington, D.C.
But there’s also a shortcut: getting farmers themselves to run for office. Political ambition isn’t the most common trait among Farm Bureau members, but it’s not rare, either, and members are encouraged to max out their ag advocacy by digging directly into the subtle art of legislating.
Case in point: Roger Victory, the Ottawa County vegetable grower who, since 2013, has represented District 88 in the Michigan House Representatives.
“Farm Bureau offered me the catalyst to start exploring leadership opportunities,” said Victory, minutes before the start of Ottawa County Farm Bureau’s 2018 Annual Meeting, Sept. 20 in Allendale.
“The biggest thing Farm Bureau inspires in you—makes you realize—is that it’s possible to take on leadership challenges and be successful,” he said.
“Farm Bureau is the foundation that allowed me to take on other leadership challenges and experiences, like Great Lakes Leadership Academy.”
Victory has a long track record of Farm Bureau involvement, including a stint as county president and representing Ottawa County at the MFB State Annual Meeting and both Lansing and Washington Legislative Seminars.
“My Farm Bureau engagement even opened my eyes to opportunities off the farm,” he said. “Involvement in statewide initiatives really built up my confidence,” like MFB’s Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Committee or MAEAP, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
Asked how he’d advise today’s members curious about the possibilities of public office, Victory was encouraging—in a characteristically Farm-Bureau kind of way.
“I’d very much encourage anyone to take on those leadership challenges. Don’t be bashful about those opportunities,” he said. “Link yourself with other Farm Bureau members and ask them for guidance.
“What a great resource we have around us in our Farm Bureau families. We’re always encouraging each other.”
Illustrating the necessity of having real farmers in Lansing, Victory said he quickly became a sought-after, oft-consulted resource for random agricultural queries, whether they relate to things he knows (rutabagas) or things he doesn’t (forestry).
“I get farming questions from everywhere—from the U.P. to Detroit—from lawmakers representing every corner of the state,” he said. “And I’m able to speak to my caucus with an authoritative voice on agricultural issues. That’s valuable, and vital to preserving farmers’ interests in government.”
His real-world experience on the farm is valuable to his colleagues in the legislature because he’s able to provide that realistic perspective.
“I understand, and I can explain, the impact of issues on agriculture,” he said, and in that way very much has his industry’s—your industry’s—back.
If you’re interested in engaging and representing agriculture in politics, check out MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership.