From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2000:

WASHINGTON D.C. – – Defenders of Wildlife and 179 other organizations on April 10 petitioned Congress for an “investigation into charges that the American Farm Bureau Federation national leadership has harmed the American farmer and their own members by posing as an organization representing farmer interests.”

The petitioners suggested that the Farm Bureau has a conflict of interest in operating “businesses that sell to the farmer and buy from the farmer.” They also sought “an investigation into charges that the Farm Bureau misrepresents its motivations to Congress and the American taxpayer, exploiting the farmer image to win nonprofit privileges that shield them from $61.75 million annually in federal income tax.”

Defenders circulated the petition by e-mail for a month preceding an April 9 expose of the Farm Bureau broadcast by CBS 60 Minutes. The expose paralleled a series of critical reports published in the Defenders membership magazine since 1998, as Defenders and the Farm Bureau clashed over the 1995 wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. In December 1997 the Farm Bureau won a lower court ruling, since reversed, which would have required that all the wolves and their descendants be removed from the wild.

Former Defenders magazine editor Roger DiSilvestro in 1998 pointed out that the Farm Bureau claims 2.5 times as many members as there are farmers in the U.S.; that just under half of all farmers are actually Farm Bureau members; and that therefore more than 80% of Farm Bureau members are non-farmers. In seven of the most heavily agricultural states, farmer representation among Farm Bureau membership is under 10%.

“Most urban members are nothing more than customers of Farm Bureau-affiliated insurance companies,” freelance writer Vicki Monks explained. “The Farm Bureau requires customers to purchase memberships in order to qualify for low-cost automobile, home, health, or life insurance. These members do not necessarily support or even know about the Farm Bureau political activities that membership fees and insurance premiums bankroll.”

The Farm Bureau in recent years has opposed federal efforts to reduce global warming, strengthen regulation of pesticides, protect wetlands, and reduce manure runoff into water supplies, and is a vehement opponent of the Endangered Species Act.

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