- TO EXPLAIN HOW THEY LIVE: It’s no secret that every single year, more and more kids leave the farm and the rural areas where they’ve grown up for the bigger cities. Flat out, there is just more opportunity in ST. Louis or Chicago for those young Americans. Even if they want to stay in the ag industry, they have multiple opportunities to work for the Chicago Board of Trade or for Monsanto in the bigger cities than they do in the rural areas. The result is that many of our legislators just don’t know what it is to live on the farm or even in a rural area. Who better to explain farm family life to them, but farmers?
- FARMERS ARE LESS THAN 2 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION: And even among those 2 percent, a majority will never travel to Washington, DC and will never make an appointment to see their elected official. It means so much to those elected officials to see real farmers in their Washington, DC offices – to have someone to ask questions of and to reflect on problems with. Farmers really ought to visit our nation’s capital more often!
- TO EXPLAIN HOW POLICIES MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT WORK: Because legislators aren’t always super aware of rural life or of how to farm, they need farmers in their office to talk them through potential policy ideas. While a farm bill is being debated, for example, farmers need to be available to point out successes or pitfalls of potential policy. How will legislators who have never farmed understand how a policy might really work on an actual farm?
- TO SEE HOW THEY CAN HELP: Sometimes, legislators that really do try hard to represent their district and enact policies that make a difference need help too. An elected official might be trying to do the right thing, but media or other non-supporters in his or her district are swinging the other way, which makes the right thing difficult. Farmers often ask how they can help their Congressman on any potential issues in the district. If a Congressman is genuinely trying to do the right thing for his district, farmers definitely want to help that Congressman so that he or she can remain in office.
- TO DONATE MONEY: It takes money to get elected into Congress and to remain in Congress. Whether that’s right or wrong, farmers will often visit Washington, DC to donate funds to the elected officials who help them on pro-farm and pro-rural life policy initiatives. Farmer leaders want to enable the best Congressman who try to understand agriculture and rural life to remain in office.
- TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE DYNAMICS OF VARIOUS POLICY INITIATIVES: Often when farmers visit Washington, DC, they are able to meet with other national associations, companies, and think tanks to gather information and get a better picture of the dynamics influencing policy decisions. For example, if farmers really want to pass tax reform, they need to meet with other impacted parties to determine how certain tax reforms might work for them. Perhaps there’s a negative impact that the farmers haven’t considered and the policy idea can be changed. Perhaps many associations are in favor of the same tax fix and they can all work together to show Congress why one idea is better than another.
When IL Corn farmer leaders travel to Washington, DC, there is almost no free time! By the time we schedule in meetings with other interested associations and companies, by the time we background ourselves on what’s going on in Washington, DC and meet with our elected officials (all 20 of them!), and by the time we participate in fundraisers for the Congressmen who have helped us, we’re running from 6 am til 9 pm and that’s no exaggeration.
But the work farmers do in D.C. is so important to protecting farm families and rural life.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director