American Farm Bureau Federation


The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF or the Farm Bureau) describes itself as the “unified national voice of agriculture” in the US. The AFBF acts as the cornerstone organization in a network of affiliated state-level Farm Bureau non-profits and insurance providers.[1]

For decades, the Farm Bureau network, which has links to the fossil fuel industry, lobbied against climate action and spread climate science denial in farming communities and in capitals across the US

Stance on Climate Change

Despite softening its messages on climate science, as of August 2020 the AFBF opposes a “near term” end to the use of fossil fuels. It also continues to support fracking, expanding the use of coal and other forms of fossil fuel production. 

Farm Bureau strongly supports the development of a national energy policy that provides for increased exploration and use of domestic energy resources,” it says on its website. “Farm Bureau supports additional access for exploration and production of oil and natural gas, including the use of hydraulic fracturing.” Farm Bureau “also supports the expanded use of coal in an environmentally sound manner.” It also says it supports the use of “renewable energy sources” like ethanol, biodiesel, biomass, solar and wind.[2]

Research suggests that, in general, farm groups play a role in reducing acceptance of climate science among farmers. “Farmers who said they trusted environmental groups for information about climate change were more likely to believe [it] was occurring and that it was due to human activity,” Scientific American reported in 2015. “However, farmers who said they trusted farm groups, agribusiness, and the farm press were less likely to believe climate change was happening and due to human action.”[3]

A 2018 InsideClimate News investigative report described the ways that the Farm Bureau has mobilized against climate action for decades. The series described ways that the Farm Bureau has lobbied against action on climate change, using the credibility of farmers as people whose livelihoods are closely connected to climate and weather to push against climate action and for policies that benefited the fossil fuel industries and that have ultimately led to increased climate warming.[4] [5]

In its 1980 policy platform statement, the AFBF recommended that “the Environmental Protection Agency be abolished.”[6]

In the 1990’s the Farm Bureau worked with the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) to oppose action on climate change, InsideClimate News reported. It also deployed its influence in the US to stall global action. “The Farm Bureau was absolutely critical in derailing Kyoto,” Stuart Eizenstat, President Bill Clinton’s chief U.S. negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol, told InsideClimate News in 2018, referring to the 1997 international treaty on climate change that the US never ratified.[7]

In a 1997 testimony on the Kyoto protocol, then-AFBF president, Dean Kleckner, said on climate change: “I think – and many other people in addition to myself think – it is unclear that we even have a problem.” He later added: “the bottom line is that we must have more information and I mean by that valid, peer-reviewed scientific research, before we make major policy decisions that will, we think, define the very structure of U.S. agriculture in the future.”[8]

On Sept. 16, 1998, Kleckner, gave testimony about the Kyoto Protocol where he pushed against action to curb climate change. “Climate change policy is controversial,” he wrote in bold text. “Drastic action proposed by the administration is not justified at this time.” Kleckner went on to say that as “a farmer” and “not a scientist,” he had “reviewed the science behind the [Clinton] administration’s climate change policy and I don’t find it particularly compelling.”[9] [10]

A 1998 report by the AFBF and the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based thinktank at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change, claimed that farmers would suffer major losses from carbon regulation. It was reviewed by climate science deniers including Fred Singer, Hugh W. Ellsaesser, Ken Green, Jay Lehr, David Littman, and Joe Lucas.[11]

In a 2009 hearing about the role of agriculture and forestry in global warming legislation, Bob Stallman, another former president of the AFBF, said “any figure I or anyone else give you is really not much more than an educated guess,” adding, “you are not going to make a meaningful difference in what the climate will be 40 years from now.” Stallman also referenced Bjorn Lomborg, a commentator known to downplay the risks of climate change, as well as putting blame on China and India for building coal-fired power plants, while arguing that “we do not have to reduce the American standard of living”.[12]

In summer 2009, the AFBF was part of a coalition of industry groups and conservative advocacy organisations that, together, launched a “grassroots” campaign urging the Senate to make business-friendly changes to the climate bill. The campaign, “Energy Citizens” also included the American Petroleum Institute and the American Conservative Union.[13]

In January 2010, the Union of Concerned Scientists requested to meet with Kleckner to discuss the AFBF’s “inaccurate” stance on climate change. In a letter, they wrote, “we are disappointed that the American Farm Bureau has chosen to officially deny the existence of human-caused climate change when the evidence of it has never been clearer.”[14]

A few days later in 2010, AFBF’s then-president Stallman argued that “we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule,” referring to a climate bill that would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions in the US. The phrase he chose, “40 acres and a mule” carries a specific history in the US. It stems from Union Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman’s 1865 Special Field Order 15, which distributed land and farm animals to freed slaves through the Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War (President Andrew Jackson, however, later intervened and ordered the land in Georgia and South Carolina distributed back to Confederate farmers, resulting in the dispossession of thousands of Black families.)[15] [16] [17] [18]

In 2009, Stallman declared that the earth was cooling in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Stallman acknowledged, however, that “carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing and that man-made emissions have increased for a number of decades,” but followed up by saying “those aren’t the only facts, and they don’t tell the whole story.”[19]

According to a 2013 Scientific American article, Mace Thornton, a spokesman for the AFBF said, “we’re not convinced that the climate change we’re seeing is anthropogenic in origin. We don’t think the science is there to show that in a convincing way.”[20]

In 2019, the AFBF shared a blog post from Erin Fitzgerald, CEO of USFRA, which promoted the USFRA-produced short film ‘30 Harvests’, which highlights “the urgency needed in the fight against climate change.”[21]

E&E News reporter Marc Heller criticised the AFBF for using the term “climatic events”, in a 2020 article. Heller described the vocabulary, initiated by the AFBF and 20 other farm groups, as a “catchphrase” which “illustrates the difficulty some farm organizations and lobbying outfits continue to have acknowledging the scientific consensus that farming plays a part in climate change.”[22]

In early 2020, President Donald Trump was invited to speak at the AFBF’s Annual Convention and Trade Show where he said, “there are no better stewards of our precious natural resources than the American farmers who depend on the land and the environment for their very livelihood”. Trump also remarked that he would “always trust a farmer over a Washington bureaucrat or a left-wing extremist” when it came to the environment, which was greeted with applause.[23]

In spring 2020, the AFBF joined the American Petroleum Institute, and other companies in the US oil and gas industry, to form a new coalition called the Transportation Fairness Alliance which described itself as a partnership that supports a “competitive and equitable transportation sector”. The Transportation Fairness Alliance appears to be the latest public relations front coordinated by the oil and gas industry to fight the transition towards electrifying vehicles.[24] [25]

Climate-smart strategies’

The Farm Bureau has promoted so-called “climate-smart” strategies and spoken of using technology to overcome “challenging” weather. “Using innovative farm equipment, better seeds, green energy and climate-smart practices, U.S. farmers and ranchers are producing more food, renewable fuel and fiber than ever before, while using less water, protecting against erosion and conserving more soil, avoiding nutrient loss, increasing wildlife habitat and improving biodiversity,” its page on climate change says. “Farm Bureau believes in using tools and solutions to address challenging weather events, but not at the risk of farmers’ and ranchers’ long-range sustainability or a strong U.S. economy.”[26]

AFBF’s 2020 policy book includes extensive discussion of climate change. It’s 2020 book calls for “science-based, peer-reviewed research to determine the causes and impacts of global climate change,” supports “EPA‘s re-evaluation of burdensome emission control rules for farming practices, farm equipment, cotton gins, grain handling facilities, etc” and calls for “research and development to better assist farmers in handling weather events and better adapting to weather conditions.” But the organization opposes “Any climate change legislation until other countries meet or exceed U.S. requirements,” and “Any attempt to regulate methane emissions from livestock under the Clean Air Act or any other legislative vehicle,” as well as “Mandatory restrictions to achieve reduced agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.”[27]

In 2020, it was one of 21 agriculture groups to form the coalition Farmers for a Sustainable Future which is “committed to using sustainable practices” and aims to “address the changing climate.”[28]

In June 2020, AFBF’s logo was featured on a one-pager for a bill introduced by a number of US senators to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification programme to help farmers and landowners participate in carbon credit markets. The one-pager also included the logos of a number of agribusinesses including Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva.[29] [30]

Messaging on Regenerative Agriculture

A blog post published 4 September 2019 by the AFBF bore the headline: “Farmers Are Mitigating Climate Change: Partners Needed.” It calls for additional government funding for agriculture research and development, while discussing the need for “climate-adaptive technologies” and noting that the majority of US greenhouse gas emissions come from motor vehicles and electrical generation. “At the same time farmers are growing their productivity, they’re shrinking their carbon footprint,” the article claims.[31]

A second article, published in October 2019 and written by the CEO of Corteva Agriscience (one of the big five pesticides manufacturers), asserts that “despite all that farmers face – including trade, policy and weather challenges – many are also actively working to improve the environment with climate-positive production practices.” The article announced the “2020 Corteva Agriscience Climate Positive Challenge,” which offers a total of $500,000 in grants for “growers who voluntarily partner with local environmental, academic or agriculture groups to expand innovations beyond their own acres.”[32]

One of the key elements in a regenerative agriculture policy platform is the creation of carbon markets involving farmers. The AFBF has historically opposed efforts to promote carbon sequestration plans, which some climate activists see playing a role in making regenerative agriculture financially attractive for farming companies. “That concept, which gained traction a decade ago, was beaten back at the time by the fossil fuel industry and one of its strongest allies, the American Farm Bureau Federation,” InsideClimate New reported. In July 2018, Republican Congressmen Steve Scalise and John Shikmus referenced the AFBF when objecting to a carbon tax proposal.[33] [34]

However, this year, the AFBF was one of several corporate lobby groups to back a similar proposed US Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification program that would bolster carbon credit markets for farmers and others.[29]

Read more: Regenerative Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns

Messaging on Precision Agriculture

The AFBF has published a handful of articles on precision agriculture, discussing topics like drones, internet connectivity and the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018.

In summer 2019, AFBF published an article in promoting the use of rural broadband which, according to the USDA’s “A Case for Rural Broadband,” would generate $64.5 billion annually to the U.S agriculture industry. At the beginning of 2020, AFBF published another pro-broadband article in reporting on news that the House of Representatives had “passed Farm Bureau-backed legislation that will improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps to better identify needs.”[35] [36]

In December 2019, AFBF announced that three members of its Bureau (Mike McCormick, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Chris Chinn, Missouri Department of Agriculture Director, and Pete Brent, operations manager of New Vision Farms in Ohio) were serving on a new Task Force for the Federal Communications Commission called Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture. The article referred to comments made by McCormick the previous year where he told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; “America’s farmers and ranchers embrace technology that allows their farming businesses to be more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.[37]

Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns

Local chapters

The AFBF is part of a large network of Farm Bureaus nationwide, which set their own state-level platforms and which have taken their own stances on climate science.

Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau has financial ties to both fossil fuels and pesticides manufacturing. In a 2018 Des Moines Register column, Austin Frerick, a former Democratic candidate and research fellow at the Open Markets Institute, wrote: “Although the Iowa Farm Bureau was created to advocate for Iowa’s farmers and rural communities, it now receives 84% of its revenue from its for-profit insurance arm, the FBL Financial Group, which controlled $10.1 billion in assets in 2017 alone” and whose holdings then included investments in Monsanto. “As a result, the Iowa Farm Bureau has an operating budget of $89 million, more than twice that of its national counterpart: the American Farm Bureau Federation,” Frerick wrote. An InsideClimate News investigation found that FBL Financial had roughly $462 million invested in fossil fuel companies that same year.[38] [39] [40]

The Iowa Farm Bureau has long opposed action to reduce the impacts of climate change. Austin Frerick, a candidate for the US House of Representatives in Iowa, took a look at those ties, Civil Eats reported in 2018. “The documents reveal significant conflicts of interest for the Iowa Farm Bureau and raise questions about whether the Iowa Farm Bureau’s public denials over the existence of climate change and its opposition to classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant as recently as 2015 is influenced by its extensive investments in ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell,” Frerick wrote in a 2018 press release.[41] [42] [43]

A February 2020 article published by the Iowa Farm Bureau headlined “In climate change, beef’s not the problem,” argues that beef production is “methane neutral” because methane eventually degrades into carbon dioxide which can be used by plants and then plants can be eaten by cows. The article places the blame for climate change on fossil fuels.[44]

The Iowa Farm Bureau has suggested that farms may be able to not only slash their own carbon emissions, but to soak up more carbon than they produce (a message that is often advanced by some proponents of regenerative agriculture but which scientists say is unproven). “Some experts estimate that (with technology available today) we’re on a trajectory to reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. And by harnessing further innovation and investment ag’s emissions could become net-negative, up to 147%!,” an October 2019 article published by the Iowa Farm Bureau says.[45]

In January 2020, the Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation supported rules restricting wind and solar projects in Iowa, citing concerns that building solar panels could “take thousands of acres out of production” and a lack of state-level zoning regulations for windmills. Lobbying data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows over $190,000 in lobbying expenditures reported in 2019, down from 2017 when the Bureau reported over $320,000 in expenditures. [46] [47]

New York Farm Bureau

Often cited as an example of a Farm Bureau that’s been more accepting of climate science, in 2013 the New York Farm Bureau rejected a proposal to oppose fracking in the state. It listed support for fracking among its top priorities for 2012. It now says that “farms are natural carbon sponges and should be a part of the solution in dealing with climate change”, promoting one of the key tenets of regenerative agriculture.[48] [49] [50]

The New York Farm Bureau’s 2020 policy book calls for “legislation creating a carbon farming pilot project.” In the context, “carbon farming” refers to so-called ‘regenerative ag’-style carbon sequestration. “We support sequestering carbon in the soil by such practices as no-till farming and pasturing livestock as a means to combat climate change in New York,” it adds. Their eight-point state-level climate platform also calls for “the direction of a portion of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds to assist farmers to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on their farms” and “appointing farmers to the Climate Action Council and the Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel.”[51]

The NYFB’s 2020 legislative priorities also include opposing a ban on chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide, and supporting the continued regulation of pesticides at the state rather than nation level. Chlorpyrifos, a “widely used pesticide was banned for household use in 2000, after studies found children who had been exposed to it had lower IQs than those who were not,” the Hill reported in August 2020. “Chlorpyrifos has also been linked to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation,” it said.[50] [52]


The Farm Bureau’s immense finances drive its political power,” according to environmental group Food and Water Watch. “With its nearly 3,000 affiliated state and county-level non-profit farm bureaus, the combined organization maintains billions of dollars in assets, making it among the most monied non-profit organizations in the United States. Meanwhile, the Farm Bureau’s affiliated for-profit companies, many of them in insurance, maintain assets on a whole other order.”[53]

State farm bureaus also run for-profit funds that invest insurance money in fossil fuel businesses, InsideClimate News reported in 2018.[54]

The AFBF’s IRS 990 forms, which contain detailed financial information about the organization, can be found here. In 2018, the AFBF reported $35.4 million in gross receipts.[55] [56]


According to the AFBF spent over $3.2 million on lobbying in 2019. According to its data, the AFBF has lobbied the following agencies since 2010:[57] [58]

The AFBF and its affiliates lobby at the federal, state and local levels. “AFBF’s core strength lies in robust state farm bureaus across the country that plug into local governments and mobilize the grassroots,” Civil Eats reported in 2015. “These state agencies are in constant contact with lawmakers and local media applying pressure. They hand out campaign checks and ‘Friends of the Farm Bureau’ awards to politicians and city officials who keep regulations at bay and the subsidies flowing. The AFBF also appears to wield a great deal of power over the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”[59] [60]

It has a long history of involvement in lobbying on climate-linked issues and the environment. “The Farm Bureau called for abolishing the EPA in 1980, and later fought efforts to bolster air and water quality standards and protections for endangered species—often in partnership with the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel groups,” InsideClimate News reported in 2018. “The alliance strengthened when the Farm Bureau became a member and powerful ally of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a group of industrial lobbies, including American Petroleum Institute and ExxonMobil, that spearheaded corporate opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.” The Global Climate Coalition fought climate action aggressively until it disbanded in 2002.[40] [6]

An InsideClimate News graphic summarised AFBF’s climate policy opposition lobbying over the last few decades, which included: 

  • in 1980 AFBF called for abolishing the Environmental Protection agency;
  • in 1987 it supported opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling;
  • between 1997 and 1999 it opposed the Kyoto Protocol;
  • in 2009, it opposed the American Clean Energy and Security Act;
  • in 2010 it backed legislation that would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases;
  • in 2011, it co-led litigation against the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding;
  • in 2012 it opposed requiring farmers to take conservation steps on their land;
  • in 2016 it backed oil and gas drilling along all U.S coastlines;
  • during the Obama administration it opposed the Clean Power Plan.


The AFBF Vice President Scott Vanderwal is on the board of US Farmers and Ranchers in Action.

The AFBF supported The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020 introduced by US Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), & Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) alongside Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva.[30]

The AFBF participated in the Global Climate Coalition, which worked to slow climate action through the 1990s.[54]

The AFBF was part of a coalition supporting the “Energy Citizens” campaign that also included the American Petroleum Institute and the American Conservative Union.[13]


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  4. Georgina Gustin, Neela Banerjee and John H. Cushman Jr, “How the Farm Bureau’s Climate Agenda Is Failing Its Farmers,” Inside Climate News, October 24, 2018. Archived September 15, 2020. URL:
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  21. Erin Fitzgerald. “‘Lights!’  ‘Camera!’  ‘Action!’ It’s Long Overdue,” American Farm Bureau Federation, August 21, 2019. Archived September 15, 2020. URL:
  22. Marc Heller. ”’Climatic events’: How farm groups skirt global warming,” E&E News, March 3, 2020.  Archived September 15, 2020. URL:
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  35. American Farm Bureau Federation. “U.S. Agriculture Would Get $64.5-Billion Boost With Rural Broadband,” Precision Ag, June 19, 2019. Archived September 15, 2020. URL:
  36. American Farm Bureau Federation. “U.S. to Redraw Broadband Coverage Maps to Triage Investment,” Precision Ag, January 2, 2020. Archived September 15, 2020. URL:
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