Texas Farm Bureau

By: Janet Schmelzer

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 12, 2021

Following the pattern of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Dallas County Farm Bureau was organized in May 1920. By August farmers across the state had expressed enough interest in the federation structure that the State Council of Agriculture and Home Economics asked the AFBF for help in establishing the Texas Farm Bureau Federation. A state Farm Bureau headquarters was opened in Dallas, and a membership drive for 100,000 members was begun. By January 1921 enough county bureaus had been established that the first annual meeting of the TFBF was held. The delegates wrote a constitution that placed the TFBF under the umbrella of the national AFBF, elected John Orr of Dallas president, and Christopher O. Moser of Dallas secretary. Under the banner of "Organized for Business," the TFBF had specific objectives: to promote agricultural life, cooperate in marketing, and work with the United States Department of Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and Texas A&M University. Membership was open to any White farmer, landlord, or tenant who paid the $10 annual dues, which was split among the county bureau, the state federation, the newsletter Farm Bureau News, and the AFBF.

The structure of the TFBF was on three levels. The smallest unit was the Community Farm Bureau that dealt with local issues. The next level was the County Farm Bureau that carried out economic and cooperative projects. At the top was the state federation, governed by a board of directors (including the president, vice president, and treasurer), which had the responsibility of holding annual conventions, conducting the general business, lobbying for legislation, and establishing cooperative marketing agencies. By the end of 1921 TFBF membership had reached 70,000. One of the more significant achievements was the establishment of the Texas Farm Bureau Cotton Association in 1921. The TFBCA was to market cotton and ensure the best profit possible for participating farmers. To do this the TFBCA pooled cotton crops, owned warehouses, and sold cotton collectively. By July 1921 the TFBCA had signed enough five year contracts with cotton farmers to reach the required 500,000 bale goal. In the 1920s the TFBF underwent some reorganization. To stabilize the financial condition of the TFBF, officials such as John Orr and Walton Peteet raised annual dues to fifteen dollars, cut office costs, and made the newsletter self-supporting through advertisement sales. A Women's Farm Bureau Division was established to provide support in membership drives. Even cooperative marketing was expanded with fourteen new livestock and crop associations.

But ultimately the cooperative marketing efforts failed, and the TFBF collapsed by 1926. For the rest of the 1920s and into the 1930s farmers and ranchers did not have any representative organization. Not until 1933 did a new organization appear when the TFBF was reorganized into the Texas Agricultural Association. When the TAA affiliated again with the AFBF in 1939, the new TFBF was organized. In 1953 the annual convention rewrote the association's by laws and changed the name from the Texas Farm Bureau Federation to the Texas Farm Bureau. Membership drives were extremely successful, with membership rising from 7,000 (1945), 110,689 (1968), 313,568 (1983), to 320,000 (1990). While being represented by the AFBF on national economic and political issues, the TFB assumed leadership in the state, fighting for farmers and ranchers. Over the years the TFB supported such legislation as animal health, farm-to market roads, agricultural research and education, and feed, seed, and insecticide laws. But the TFB offered many other services to its membership. In 1944 the first medical insurance program began. Two years later, combining with other southern state bureaus, the TFB helped to form the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company and then the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company. In 1950 the TFB started the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company, which offered fire and extended coverage. This company was converted into the Texas Farm Mutual Insurance Company in 1958. In the 1960s marketing services were expanded to accelerate the sale of commodities to Europe as well as cattle and chickens within the United States. And the TFB sold its own products, such as the Safemark tires and batteries, to members. In addition to the annual conventions, the TFB offered members educational institutes and a radio program called the "Farm Bureau Roundup," beginning the 1950s. Another source of TFB information was the official publication, Texas Agriculture, starting in 1937 to 1985. In July 1985 two new publications replaced Texas Agriculture. Texas Neighbors was for all TFB members and families and contained information and news of general interest. Texas Agriculture Weekly was for those TFB members who had one or more commodities interests and contained news for commercial farmers and ranchers.

In the 1990s the TFB had its headquarters in Waco. The county bureau remained the basic structure of the TFB and was responsible for charging membership dues and recruitment. Membership for 1994 was 290,000 in 211 county bureaus. Subsidiary organizations included Farm Bureau Insurance and Texas Agricultural Service Company. The TFB president was Bob Stallman of Columbus, and the executive director was Vernie Glasson of Waco.

Texas Agricultural Extension Service Historical Files, 1914–1970, Evans Library, Texas A&M University. John R. Wunder, At Home on the Range: Essays on the History of Western Social and Domestic Life (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Research
  • Organizations
  • Agencies
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Janet Schmelzer, “Texas Farm Bureau,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-farm-bureau.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 12, 2021

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