August presents a huge opportunity for agricultural advocacy, with federal lawmakers in their home districts, hosting constituent meetings and interacting directly with the people they were elected to serve. Lawmakers are interested in learning about how different policies and situations affect those they represent and how they can help. Now is the time to share your story.
If your schedule is like mine, this month started off busy and is only becoming busier as the weeks go on. We all want to soak up the last days of summer in the midst of conferences, meetings, errands and other demands, as well as a vacation, if we’re lucky. So, why should you put participating in August recess activities toward the top of your never-ending to-do list? Agriculture’s myriad challenges are as diverse as the industry itself, but the dire state of the farming economy is squeezing everyone involved.
Farm income is the lowest it’s been since the Great Depression, down 50 percent in the last four years alone. The trade situation is further darkening the bleak economic picture. Already-imposed tariffs, anticipated tariff announcements and a lack of new trade agreements have resulted in more uncertainty than even farmers and ranchers are used to. About a quarter of U.S. farm products are exported and the tariffs’ effects are evident in tumbling commodity prices. Since July, the price of corn has fallen more than 71 cents per bushel and the price of soybeans has fallen $2.07 per bushel from season highs in mid-May. Dairy prices are also down more than 10 percent.
When lawmakers are in their home districts for an extended period, a direct link to change is in your community. To make the most of this time, it’s important to actively participate in events members of Congress host or attend, such as town hall meetings, community forums, business openings and state celebrations. Events likes these matter to members of Congress. A survey of more than 200 senior congressional staffers found that 82 percent valued in-person town hall meetings, considering them somewhat or very important.
At these critical in-person engagements, you can communicate your concerns, learn what’s on members’ minds and ask questions. Members of Congress host town hall meetings to get first-hand accounts of how policies and situations impact their constituents. For you, events like this are a chance to make a lasting impression on lawmakers; research shows personal stories are remembered and have the most impact.
Preparation is the key to making the most of engagement opportunities. Figure out where recess events are taking place and plan to attend. Build your narrative with clear arguments, explanatory data and persuasive stories. Think through what you would like your lawmaker to know about how various issues and policies affect your farm business and family. Consider practicing responses to questions lawmakers may ask.
Make the most of August recess by checking out advocacy resources from the American Farm Bureau here. Congressional lawmakers are far more accessible in August than they are for any other sizeable chunk of the year. Take advantage of the opportunity.