One of the reasons our country became a global superpower and a shining beacon for those searching for a better life is because our government is of, by and for the people. Our democratic government empowers each of us to play a role in shaping our nation’s laws and, if called on, to serve as an elected representative or leader. While we rely on elected officials to enact policies that will protect and promote our well-being and carry out the people’s will, our job is to help inform their votes and actions.
When I meet with federal government officials and elected representatives, I share our Farm Bureau priorities and the stories I hear from grassroots members across the country. These leaders and lawmakers come from all corners of the country, and while they are eager to hear from me, most are not directly accountable to me. They are accountable to the people in their states and districts. That is why telling your story to your elected officials is so critical. It’s their job to speak for you, but they can’t do that if they don’t hear from you.
While you can reach out to your representatives by phone, mail, email and social media anytime, meeting them in person is one of the best ways to share your concerns. And in just a couple of weeks, Congress will start their annual August recess – a month-long break that members typically dedicate to traveling around their home states and districts to meet with the people they represent. This will be a perfect opportunity to make sure these representatives know how the issues they will be addressing in the fall affect you and your farm.
I have seen how effective our grassroots members are and how our engagement and grassroots advocacy can impact policy. When proposals to eliminate stepped-up basis and increase capital gains taxes started to gain widespread support in Washington, our grassroots started sharing how these taxes would devastate their family farms. We helped share the story of North Carolina Farm Bureau member Ann Margaret-Hughes who, at 14 years old, had to empty her savings account to help her family keep their farm. Her college savings, 4-H winnings and birthday money were all wiped out. If these proposals were enacted into law – this story would repeat itself across the county and lead to even more consolidation in agriculture. And stories like this are making a difference. More members of Congress are opposed to these proposals than just a few months ago.
As our government focuses on combatting climate change, telling agriculture’s sustainability story has helped us shape climate policy. We are now seeing policies that recognize the leadership and work farmers have put in for generations to leave their farms in better shape than they found them. Arkansas Farm Bureau member Mike Wood shared how he has been engaged in water conservation efforts for decades because our livelihoods depend on sustainable farming practices. We need clean water and healthy soil for our families and to raise our crops and livestock. Just a few weeks ago, the Senate passed rare bipartisan climate legislation that would help interested farmers navigate emerging carbon credit markets. Voluntary, market-based policy. Just as we advocated for. In today’s political climate, bipartisan success is hard to come by, especially on climate policy. But this legislation received 92 yes votes because of the stories our grassroots have shared with consumers and their representatives.
And as farmers and ranchers have shared their challenges with livestock marketing as meatpackers see increased income while the price for cattle falls, Congress and the administration have started to take action. The lack of broadband internet in many rural communities became more apparent than ever during the pandemic when families shared how their students couldn’t join virtual classes or employees couldn't telework because of nonexistent or unreliable internet.
The results and progress we are experiencing for agriculture are possible because people shared their stories as we speak with a united voice. We need more voices to ensure we can effectively tackle the issues agriculture and our rural communities face. So take a few minutes and visit usa.gov/elected-officials to find the contact information for your senators and representatives and call to see if there are opportunities to meet and share your experiences. Consider inviting them onto the farm to see firsthand the good work being done. Every story makes a difference to ensure a vibrant future for our family farms and ranches.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.