In January 2010, Wal-Mart corporate officials pulled Ritchey's Dairy milk from the shelves at its stores on Plank Road and in Huntingdon.
Local farm bureau members weren't happy with that decision.
"The farm bureau picked up on that. The Blair County Farm Bureau said that isn't right and Wal-Mart put it back in," said President Gary Long. "The farm bureau has a lot of pull in the political end of things."
"Due to the efforts of the farm bureau, local FFA groups, and community complaints in general, our milk was restored to the store shelves at Wal-Mart," Ritchey's General Manager Andrew Ritchey said. "We thank the farm bureau for helping support our local farmers and Ritchey's Dairy."
The Wal-Mart-Ritchey's Dairy issue is just one example of the power of the farm bureau.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization run by farmers, state spokesman Mark O'Neill said. The role of the bureau, which has 53,000 members, is to look out for the interests of Pennsylvania's farmers.
"We try to meet the needs and expectations of farmers. We want them to be viable and able to stay in business," O'Neill said.
There are 54 county farm bureaus in Pennsylvania, some include more than one county. Each elects its own officers.
The county farm bureaus can help local farmers.
"If you have a problem with a township ordinance or a complaint with a neighboring farmer, the county farm bureau is the place where the farmer can start," Long said. "The county farm bureau can try to change things and make them better."
The county farm bureaus bring policy issues to the state level at the annual meeting in Hershey, this year set for Nov. 14-16.
"County farm bureaus have their annual meetings in September and October and they put together policy ideas at their level. The policies then go to the annual meeting," O'Neill explained. "They have delegates to represent the farmers across the state, and issues are voted on. They can also get rid of old policies."
The Blair County Farm Bureau has about 500 members but not all are active, while the Cambria County Farm Bureau has more than 500 members.
"One of the main things we try to do is keep our membership as high as we can to influence elected legislators," Cambria President Tom Smithmyer said. "The more members we have the better we can influence legislators."
"We are a lobbyist group that stands up for the rights of the farmers and keep the politicians in line," Long said.
Farm bureau membership provides members with many benefits.
"We have through the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau discounts and benefits within divisions of communication, financial and business services, health care, insurance, supplies and utilities, transportation, travel services and security services," O'Neill said. "We have an insurance program at the farm bureau, most farmers are self-insured. By coming together as a group, they can save money. We also have a Safe Mark program, which sells tires and other ag products."
The farm bureau also tries to work with potential young farmers.
"At the state and county levels, we have a Young Farmer and Rancher Committee. We try to keep the youth interested in farming," O'Neill said. "We provide them with information about loans and grants that are available."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.