Groups, Farm Bureau square off over policies

LOUISVILLE,  Ky. (WTVQ) – Four Kentucky advocacy groups are taking aim this week at one of the state’s largest companies.

The groups — ACLU of Kentucky, Jefferson County Teachers Association, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the Fairness Campaign — unveiled billboards criticizing what they call the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s discriminatory policies.

The billboards come in advance of the 2020 Kentucky State Fair, of which the Farm Bureau is the major sponsor. Commuters headed south towards the fairgrounds on I-65 will see the group’s message, “Kentucky Farm Bureau: Big on Discrimination.”

But in response, the Farm Bureau said Tuesday it does not discriminate and its policies reflect its membership and values on which the nation was built.

The billboards, which will be up through Aug. 31, direct drivers to Fairness.org/KFB, for information and a petition. The website also features a video from Congressman John Yarmuth, State Representative Attica Scott, and others opposed to the policies.

This marks the 10th year the groups have protested the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s policies that are “overtly anti-LGBTQ, anti-Teacher, anti-Union, anti-Choice, anti-POC, pro-Death Penalty,” the groups said in a statement.

“Unbeknownst to most of them, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance customers automatically pay an annual fee that enrolls them as members of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, the company’s lobbying arm. Last year they spent more than $85,000 lobbying thebKentucky General Assembly on the many discriminatory stances policies outlined in their official policy book, which elected officials receive but paying customers do not,” the groups stated.

But the company countered its policies are founded in its members.

“Kentucky Farm Bureau loves Kentucky. Its people. Its communities. Its farms. Its diversity.  In order to serve as the voice of agriculture, we operate as a democratic organization; our policy positions rise from the grassroots of each county Farm Bureau. As such, our voice reflects our membership and Kentucky’s rural communities,” the organization said in a statement.

“Our basic governing principle is rooted in the idea that a fair, free democratic process is essential to best representing the views of the Farm Bureau’s members.

“To be clear, Kentucky Farm Bureau does not discriminate. We follow the law. And to be very clear, we do not apologize for our democratic, grassroots process, the principles of which have served our nation very well for a long time and this organization for more than 100 years. We respect the right of all organizations to go through their policy development process. We ask that organizations and individuals respect our right to follow our process, even if you think differently,” the Farm Bureau concluded.

Three protesters were arrested in 2019 and 2015 at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast, which has been canceled this year due to COVID-19. Charges were dismissed against protesters in 2015; they currently await trial for the 2019 arrests that included charges of menacing, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

Attorneys Erin Kennedy and Michael Goodwin are representing protesters Sonja de Vries, Carla F. Wallace, and Chris Hartman.

The four groups cite a list of Kentucky Farm Bureau policies they say are discriminatory and the pages in the policy book:

  • The institution of marriage should only be recognized as the legal union of a man and a woman. (p.9)
  • We are opposed to any state-supported agency providing benefits to “domestic” partners. (p.10)
  • We strongly believe in the value of all individuals both born and unborn. (p.10)
  • We support the current law that prevents teacher strikes. We oppose legislation that mandates collective bargaining for public school employees. (p.60)
  • We oppose schools declaring themselves gender neutral. (p.61)
  • Alternative lifestyles should not be taught in public schools. (p.61)
  • We oppose an increase in the minimum hourly wage. (p.75)
  • We recommend the federal prevailing wage law be repealed when dealing with government contracts. (p.75)
  • We strongly oppose any mandate that would require any government entities to recognize and collectively bargain with employee unions. (p.75)
  • Furthermore, we oppose public employees being permitted to strike, organize work stoppages or slow-downs. (p.75)
  • We support the idea that those who receive Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or other government welfare payments should have to submit to random drug testing. (p.76)
  • Persons on strike should not be eligible for SNAP benefits, surplus commodities or unemployment compensation. (p. 76)
  • We support capital punishment. (p.88)
  • We oppose any government mandate that forces school districts to provide transgender bathrooms. (p.90)
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