Talk to Senators and Reps. in Your State During August Recess

Sen. Harkin meets with Iowa Cattleman's Association Members in 2007 to discuss upcoming Farm Bill

You don’t have to travel to Washington DC to meet with your Congressman, Senator or their staff. Five times a year your legislators return to their home state on recess. And this summer the House and Senate are in recess from August 9th through September 10th.   During this time your legislators will be back in their home districts to meet with constituents, attend public events and fundraisers and try to convince the people they represent that their priorities, agendas and actions in Washington are in the interest of voters at home. Town hall meetings, coffee hours, tours, and other public events present an excellent opportunity great to ask questions and inform policy makers and their staff of your concerns.

So whatever your agenda, this is a great chance to make it heard. Issues related to agricultural consolidation and anti-competitive practices, USDA’s proposed rules to clarify and strengthen protections for farmers and ranchers under the Grain Inspection Packers, and Stockyards Administration Act (GIPSA), impending Food Safety Legislation, and appropriations for Farm Bill programs are among the issues that are at the forefront of agricultural policy and lawmaking at the moment. Many Ag. Committee Members in both houses are also starting to think about 2012 Farm Bill priorities and changes.

At a time of economic uncertainty and concern over the federal deficit, appropriations for many 2008 Farm Bill programs are in jeopardy. So it’s important to take this opportunity to make your voice heard in emphasizing the importance of the programs and issues that matter to you. Organizing a public event, making an appointment to meet with federal and local staff in district offices, and attending public events are all important ways to assure that you are part of the process, and that your voice is heard beyond the ballot box.

Before you meet with your legislator or their aides, be sure to form a few simple and coherent ‘talking points’, research their record or positions on the issues, and try to recruit others, ESPECIALLY FARMERS to join you in reaching out and promoting your issue(s). A number of organizations have materials on their websites which can help you to be sure to get your points across effectively. Here is one from NSAC, one from the Community Food Security Coalition, and one from the Property Rights Foundation of America just to get you started.

In terms of Beginning Farmer and Rancher issues, one I think is particularly important is the Individual Development Account (BFRIDA) matching grants program which was approved at a meager (at least in Farm Bill terms) $5 Million/year, but was not funded in the first year. It is estimated that if funded for it’s final four years, it could help 3-4000 new farmers enter the field. So shut down the mower or tractor for a day, go out and meet the people that make many of the decisions that affect farm and food policy, and let them know what you think in a respectful and candid way. The bottom line is that legislators are human, they actually can be influenced by things other than poll numbers, pundits, and campaign contributions, and it is our right to try to make this happen. It might not seem so at times, but they work for us, and squeaky wheels tend to get the grease.

So shut off the the mower, the boat, or the tractor for a few hours over the next month, get out to meet the people who make many of the decisions that affect farm and food policy, and give them a metaphorical ‘squeak’ to let them know what you think in a respectful, candid and personal way.

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