I’m putting on my MTGA staffer hat for this blog post. MTGA’s annual event Poultry Day at the Capitol (partnered with the Chicken and Egg Association of MN – CEAM) is happening this week – how many of you have been to the state’s Capitol building to visit with your local legislators? Do you ever wonder if it would make a difference? I was once told by a Minnesota Senator if they receive one letter regarding an issue, it’s on their radar; if they receive five letters regarding an issue, there’s a problem that needs quick attention; if a constituent visits their office at the Capitol, they are ALL ears. The time and effort a constituent has put in to travel to the Capitol is noted and appreciated (Please note that the letters I reference here are not form letters, but individual letters written by constituents).
Looking back at the unprecedented Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak our state experienced in 2015, our organization was present at the Capitol testifying on the difficulties our industry was experiencing. This was no easy task for our farmers (and those involved in the response, such as veterinarians) to share the emotional toll they experienced and the devastating potential of losing their livelihood that had been built by many generations. However, there was some ease in sharing our story with legislators that we had built relationships with. It is important to not just maintain those relationships, but to continue to build upon those relationships. Consistency is key here!
Ask yourself: Do my local legislators understand agriculture and how my family makes a living? Do the committee members involved on all agricultural committees have an understanding of agriculture?
If you’re not present at the Capitol or writing letters or emails to your legislators, you’re not being heard. If you’re not being heard, your issue becomes a non-issue and therefore it’s not important. As small, rural farm businesses, we need to communicate our needs to help us stay in business.
I think this quote from former President Franklin D. Roosevelt sums it up: “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”