Oregon farmer Barry Bushue knows that the cards aren’t stacked in his favor for succeeding Bob Stallman as president of the country’s largest agricultural organization.
But he hopes members look beyond American Farm Bureau Federation history and elect him to the top spot based on Barry Bushue history.
“I am an inclusive leader, a decisive leader and a problem solver, and I feel confident that our members will pick a leader they have faith in vs. the region that person comes from,” Bushue says.
Only one candidate from the West—the late Allan Grant of California—has won the presidency since the AFBF started in 1919.
Though the president has historically come from the Midwest and South, the two regions with the highest number of voting delegates, Bushue says that issues fronting farmers and ranchers today are much more broad-based than in years past.
“Each region certainly faces some specific challenges, but many of those challenges are crossing regional lines. For example, water issues impact all of us, whether you’re in Alaska or Alabama,” Bushue says. “Oregon and the West Coast for years have been on the point of the spear with issues like the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, and the Oregon Farm Bureau has a solid history of addressing some of these real environmental challenges.”
Bushue has served as OFB president since 1999.
“Oregon politics are dominated by a single party (it’s one of the most Democratic states in the country), and that kind of dominance tends to limit debate and discussion when it comes to public policy,” Bushue says. “But I am proud to say that I and other Farm Bureau leaders in our state have been very successful in working with both sides of the aisle. You can’t control how the public votes, but you can control the way in which you work with your state legislators, Congressional delegates and the public.”
Bushue says that his ability to develop coalitions both within and outside agriculture is one of the skillsets he would bring to the AFBF’s top post. He listed a number of accomplishments in Oregon that could be broadened on a national scale.
For example, he says, “A few years ago, I pulled together a large group of agriculture leaders in our state to develop a set of principles of agriculture that we could all support as opposed to being down at the state capitol fighting piecemeal over some of the minutia of legislation.”
He adds, “We’ve worked very hard to be inclusive of all agriculture interests in the state, including the timber industry, and we’ve worked equally hard to build relationships with lawmakers.”
One of the ways OFB has done this, says Bushue, is by inviting all state legislators and candidates on an agricultural bus tour around the state every other year.
“We talk about legislation and how it will impact farmers, ranchers, local economies and the state and nation,” he says.
His role as president
Bushue emphasizes that he will take his “best game” into the AFBF presidency, in part by working to forge relationships with members of Congress who allow partisan politics to get in the way of “straight-forward discussions about straight-forward pieces of legislation.”
At the same time, Bushue adds, he and his administration would build on the positive liaisons already in place. He says he was honored to receive support for president from two Oregon congressmen on both sides of the aisle: Republican Greg Walden and Democrat Kurt Schrader.
Bushue has served as AFBF vice president since 2008 and had high praise for the approximate 80 employees (“They are go-to folks with incredible depth of knowledge”) and Stallman (“He is especially effective in dealing with trade issues and brought great financial strength to our organization”).
Will Bushue follow closely in Stallman’s footsteps?
“There are certainly many things I will continue since Bob was such a transformational and decisive leader. But each individual has to be his own leader, and I will continue to look for opportunities to be more proactive as an organization, both in the legislative and litigation arenas. We have an incredibly talented legal staff at AFBF, and I think there are opportunities to expand that legal aspect for the benefit of farmers and ranchers across the U.S.”
Congressman says Bushue an articulate spokesman for agriculture
Among those supporting Barry Bushue’s run for American Farm Bureau Federation president is Oregon Congressman Greg Walden.
“In making sure farm and ranch families have an effective voice, Barry Bushue has really become the face of Oregon agriculture—a recognizable spokesman within the industry, in the public arena and with elected officials and policymakers at the state and national levels,” Walden wrote in a letter of support.
“Barry’s ability to articulate the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture and to rally disparate parts of the natural resource community has made him most effective in getting things done,” Walden added.
More about Bushue
Bushue and his wife, Helen, operate a diversified retail farm 25 miles east of Portland, Ore.
“We sell almost everything we grow to our customers on a retail basis: flowers, bedding plants, vegetable starts, you-pick berries, a wide range of you-pick vegetables and pumpkins,” Bushue says.
He grew up on the family farm, graduated from Oregon State University and then taught high school in Australia, where he met Helen.
His parents were co-founders of the Multnomah County Farm Bureau, and he became involved with the organization after returning home in 1988 to run the farm, working up from county leadership roles to state and national roles in the 1990s.
The couple have three children. Son Riley manages Walden’s district office in Medford, Ore., and oversees the congressman’s agriculture and forestry policy work; son Kyle is a mechanical engineer for ESOC Corp. in Utah; and daughter Lara is finishing work on her primary school teacher degree at Eastern Oregon University.