From the Ground Up: Producers Need to Engage with Elected Officials

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 8:27 AM CST
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The Ag Industry encourages its producers to talk with consumers and tell their story to try and bridge the disconnect that exists between the two groups, but it’s also important that producers engage with their elected representatives. Bart Fischer is the co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M.

“I encourage everyone who is involved in agriculture to at least make one trip up there, to get engaged in producer organizations that are representing you, but tag along some time and go, and show up to town hall meetings that members are holding, that members of congress are holding in their districts. And show up at candidate forums and get to know the folks because they’re your voice in Washington.”

Fischer says that even though crowds fill the hallways in Washington, sometimes one person can make a difference.

“Despite the fact that there are a lot of people who go there, I can tick off a number of examples where one person did make an impact. So you, there may be a lot of people going into a congressional office, but a lot of them aren’t necessarily from that district, and that member is looking to hear from folks back home.”

Fischer served as chief economist at the House Committee on Agriculture helping craft the 2014 and 2018 farm bills.

“On both of the two last farm bills, I have very specific examples where a farmer tagged along on one of these trips, got to know the staffer there. You know that staffer may know nothing about agriculture, and instead of lamenting that fact the producer saw it as an opportunity to get to know that staffer and suddenly whenever that individual had questions they started calling up that farmer wanting to know their opinion.”

Fischer puts the onus on the agricultural industry to tell its story.

“If you’re not around production agriculture every day why would you know about it? When groups would come to Washington, D.C., I would, particularly if they were lamenting that a certain member didn’t understand their issue, I would often push right back and say why is it that member’s job? I mean ideally, we would like for them to care about the issue that we care about, but ultimately it’s up to us to covey that issue’s importance to that member and so I think it all comes down to education and making the effort to tell our story to folks.”