A graduate of animal science and former Extension Service employee, James Merrill Anderson led the Iowa Farm Bureau in a time of transition.
Like many other Iowa agricultural leaders, James Merrill Anderson (born Feb. 6, 1916) started his career working for the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service after graduating from Iowa State College. After returning from World War II and a brief stint as an agricultural representative for a Chicago livestock bank, Anderson began to farm in Jasper County. On the wall of his farm home was a letter from President Eisenhower thanking Anderson for chairing the National Conservation Field Days and Plowing Matches, where the presidential candidates had been speakers. Two years after, he was elected to the board of directors of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF).
From its inception, the purpose of the IFBF was to help farm families prosper and improve their quality of life. Over the years IFBF has confronted a wide variety of issues ranging from global trade, agricultural education and research, distribution and marketing of farm goods, farm credit, rural power and communications, soil conservation, and price support programs to name just a few. Membership in the IFBF is open to people of any occupation and, as of 2007, claims over 150,000 member families to be part of its organization.
Five years later, in 1963, he became president of the Iowa Farm Bureau. For 12 years a period of strong membership growth began. The Farm Bureau initiated the first group health care program for rural people, an electronic farm records system, and a mutual fund program for members. The program also relocated out of Des Moines to a 55-acre tract of farmland near developing interstate highways I-80 and I-35. The decision was strategic and well-timed, just ahead of a record upward spiral in Iowa farmland values.
In his personal life, he married Margaret K. (Poage) in 1937 and they had two daughters, Pam and Nancy. James Merrill Anderson passed away in 1991.
Honors: Iowa Master Farmer, 1958; Animal Science Hall of Fame, Iowa State University, 1973; Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, Iowa Farm Bureau
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Records, MS 105, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.