Commentary: Now is the time to increase your political activity


Issue Date: March 2, 2016
By Casey Gudel
Members of the California Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors meet with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, center, during a meeting in McCarthy’s U.S. Capitol office.
Photo/Dave Kranz

Next week, dozens of Farm Bureau members from around California will visit the state Capitol in Sacramento to meet with legislators about key issues that affect farming and ranching.

Last week, hundreds of Farm Bureau members from around the United States visited the U.S. Capitol for constituent visits with members of Congress, during the American Farm Bureau Federation Advocacy Conference.

Last month, members of the California Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors conducted their annual visit to Washington, D.C., where they met with more than 40 of the state's congressional offices, plus officials of federal agencies.

As you can see, political advocacy is an ongoing, active part of Farm Bureau's mission to "protect and promote agricultural interests throughout the state of California and to find solutions to the problems of the farm, the farm home and the rural community." Often, when we ask members why they join Farm Bureau, they say it's because of the representation Farm Bureau provides at the local, state and national levels.

Of course, that representation doesn't happen just in Sacramento or Washington. It happens when county Farm Bureau leaders testify before a planning commission or board of supervisors meeting, and it happens when Farm Bureau members meet with their legislative and congressional representatives when those elected officials return to their districts.

The House of Representatives schedules regular "constituent work periods," during which members of Congress return home to their districts. There are two constituent work periods this month: March 7-11 and March 24 through April 8.

These work periods offer a great opportunity for Farm Bureau members to touch base with their local representatives. Next week, for example, would be an excellent time to follow up with congressional offices on topics the CFBF board discussed during its Washington meetings, such as the need for California drought legislation, the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, our call to rescind the damaging "waters of the United States" regulation and other federal issues.

The state Legislature will have its Spring Recess March 18-25. Scheduling an appointment during the Spring Recess allows Farm Bureau members another chance to get together with elected officials or their staff to follow up on the topics to be discussed next week during Capitol meetings that coincide with the CFBF Leaders Conference.

Each meeting you hold with your elected officials strengthens your relationship with those offices. Building relationships with elected officials represents an important part of influencing the political process.

Certainly, farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses face plenty of challenges, but don't wait until a problem arises to begin outreach with elected officials. Having a prior relationship will benefit you when a problem does occur.

A personal visit is the most effective way of communicating with elected officials. Personal stories are memorable and provide decision makers with valuable insight. Remember: If you don't tell your own story, someone else will tell their version for you.

There are many good ways to build that personal connection:

  • Invite your elected representative to a breakfast or lunch at your office.
  • Schedule a time for Farm Bureau leaders to visit the representative's district office.
  • Attend a town hall meeting in your area.
  • Arrange a farm tour for elected representatives, to familiarize or reintroduce them to the farms and ranches in his or her district.

You can start your outreach today by making an appointment with your elected official's district office. If your representative has a district that encompasses multiple counties, work with your neighbors to set an appointment where you can meet as a group.

Both the state Legislature and Congress have entered the second year of their two-year sessions—and that of course means that it's an election year, as well. Issues and legislation can change quickly, which underscores the importance of maintaining an ongoing relationship with your elected officials.

One way to do that is to participate in FARM TEAM. You can sign up for the team via the CFBF website at www.cfbf.com. Once you're on the team, Farm Bureau will provide you with the tools you need to advocate quickly and effectively on legislation or regulations that affect family farmers and ranchers.

FARM TEAM members receive Action Alerts with updated information on activity in Sacramento or Washington that deserves attention. The Action Alerts also provide a pre-drafted letter or email that you can customize to send to your elected officials in order to make your voice heard.

Another way to make your voice heard, collectively, is by supporting FARM PAC®, the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm. FARM PAC contributes to farm-friendly candidates who want to find creative, permanent solutions to the challenges California faces.

Those challenges become more manageable when each of us does our part to tackle them. Through political advocacy and personal meetings with elected representatives, Farm Bureau members do their part on behalf of family farmers and ranchers throughout their county, state and nation.

(Casey Gudel is manager of political affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at cgudel@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.