Football games on TV, combine harvesters rolling through farm fields and pumpkin patches are all signs that fall is officially here. This year, we can add in political attack ads on TV and campaign signs dotting the countryside to the mix as well.

Politicians come and go, but our country’s grounding in the democratic principles of electing leaders to keep our country moving forward remains. For nearly two years, many of us have been waiting for things to get back to normal.

At this point we’re still wrestling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, including supply chain issues, inflation and a disruption in the workforce that has led to countless businesses being understaffed. We seem destined for a new normal, rather than the normal of 2019.

What this new normal becomes remains to be seen, but the politicians running for election this year certainly will have a large part in shaping it. The political discourse in this country at the moment, on top of the negativity that tends to flow from campaign ads, makes it so easy to become disenchanted with the election process. It often seems like the government never acts quickly enough and when it does finally act, it never seems like they do enough.

Nobody is perfect, and we have to remember that includes our government.

As we move forward into our new normal, having politicians in place who are constantly working to create a country that is prosperous for everyone is vital.

Farm Bureau prides itself on being a grassroots organization. Delegates establish where our organization stands on issues that affect agriculture and our communities. But that is just the start.

We must also elect officials who are willing to bring us to the table with them and hear what we have to say. Next year, 2023 will bring a new farm bill, which, as the name implies, will have a huge impact on agriculture.

National politics almost always dominates the news cycle, but we cannot forget key races that happen much closer to home. A new farm bill may be the flashy talking point at a farm conference this winter, but a new school referendum may have a larger immediate impact on your day-to-day life.

You may have already decided who you are going to vote for to be your next congressperson in Washington, D.C., or perhaps who you want elected governor of your state, but those will only be a couple of the choices you will make on your ballot in November.

That’s why it’s so important – before stepping into the ballot box – to research the other races and issues you will be presented with.

Active participation in the democratic process is what keeps this country going. Make a plan to vote and make sure your voice is heard.

Aaron Mitchell is a dairy farmer who serves as chairman of the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders Committee. This column was originally published by Illinois Farm Bureau as a column and is republished with permission.