Be a Successful Advocate

Farm Bureau needs champion advocates like you.  We need farmers and ranchers around the country to stand up for ag policies in your state and in your communities.  Whether you are a leader or just getting started in Farm Bureau, you can raise your voice to influence policies impacting agriculture.

FB Advocacy is the advocacy network designed to raise awareness among Congress and the Administration about how public policies impact farmers and ranchers, consumers and the agriculture industry.

Follow these simple recommendations to increase your effectiveness as a champion advocate for agriculture:

The key element of every tactic in this toolkit is the personal story. It’s important to understand why personal stories are so influential with policy makers. Legislators make it a high priority to keep in touch with their constituents. They set aside a substantial amount of time to meet with residents from their district or state. During any given week, they meet with dozens of constituents. The meetings that make the biggest impression on them are those where the constituent has shared a personal story and explained why the legislation they seek will make a difference to them. These constituents have an impact because they put a “face” on the issue.

Not surprisingly, these stories are likely to be remembered by legislators far longer than facts and figures.

The story connects the dots for the member: how a bill is hurting, or could help, a resident, and what the practical impact of the bill is for constituents in that district.

The more time an advocate spends thinking through their story and how to talk about it, the more effective it will be when the story is shared as part of an event or conversation.

Constituent Video Testimonials
Capturing video testimonials is now a common practice … and an influential one. Record video messages that showcase your farm and ranch, animals, equipment, successes and challenges. These videos can then be sent to lawmakers, shared on social media, or held for future use. The most common videos from farmers and ranchers include testimonial, issue impact, explanation or procedural/how to.

Above all else: keep it simple. Videos should be clear enough that the content is quickly understandable.

Virtual or Video Farm Tours
A virtual farm tour is an alternative to inviting a Member of Congress or their staff to visit your farm and ranch. Throughout the year, farmers and ranchers are always working. And during times of planting, harvest, calving, severe weather, drought and other times, farmers and ranchers have a video to show. A first-person video can help put virtual visitors in the middle of the action. Any video or photos can help provide lawmakers with much needed context.

Above all else: keep it simple. Videos should be clear enough that the content is quickly understandable.

"When I feel the heat, I see the light." -- Everett Dirksen

Staying up-to-date on important policy and regulatory actions in Washington, DC is easy. Sign up here for FB Advocacy Alert. Your voice, combined with thousands of farmers and ranchers across the country, is needed to support our issues.

There are multiple resources available to find your elected officials at each level of government. For starters, visit or Insert your ZIP code to get the contact information for all of your lawmakers, from the president of the United States to your federal legislators, state lawmakers and other officials.

Emails are one of the best ways to contact Congress. As a constituent, you carry a lot of power with your elected officials — remember, they work on your behalf.

At one of our action alerts, you’ll find pre-written letters to your legislators that you can personalize with your thoughts. Many congressional staffers say that a personalized letter carries more weight than a pre-written letter since it illustrates the constituent took the time to tell their story.

While our pre-written letters will cover most of the basics, here are some more tips on writing to legislators:
  • Begin by introducing yourself as a constituent and a member of Farm Bureau. Many legislators won’t accept letters or emails from outside their district.
  • Make “the ask” and make it personal. In the first paragraph, specify what action you want taken and, if possible, refer to bills by name or number. Legislators can’t know what you want them to do unless you tell them.
  • Briefly share your story about how your legislator’s actions will directly impact you, your community, your job and your family.
  • Keep the length of your email to three or four paragraphs and 100 words or less.

Social media has radically enhanced the way constituents communicate with legislators -- and vice versa. Legislators have shifted much of their energy and attention to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs to be more accessible to those they represent. Additionally, electronic communications are fast, inexpensive and allow legislators to respond more quickly.

We encourage you to use social media to talk about our policy priorities and use your pictures and stories to really highlight the issue. You can also use social media to:

  • Follow lawmakers to know what they are saying about particular bills.
  • Communicate with them..
  • Let your personal and professional networks know where you stand on critical issues and encourage them to act.

Twitter has become a favorite tool of legislators to release press statements, photos and short news items. Every senator and more than 95 percent of representatives use Twitter.

To reach your legislators simply begin your tweet with their Twitter handle (user handles begin with an @ sign). You’ll also want to include relevant hashtags, (which begin with a # sign). Hashtags are a way of branding your tweet and making it easier to track conversations.

Facebook is important to lawmakers too. More than 90 percent of legislators in Congress have a Facebook page and use it for sharing information with constituents. Legislators frequently use Facebook to communicate their opinion on pending issues or legislation. However, they also use Facebook to talk about what is going on in their states or districts, including events they’re holding or attending. This is a good way to find out where you can meet your legislators in-person.

Legislators read comments and posts on their Facebook pages. In a 2010 study by the Congressional Management Foundation, nearly two-thirds of U.S. House and Senate social media managers said Facebook is an important tool for understanding constituent views and opinions. Keep track of what they post and add your thoughts; these are great ways to make your voice heard.

The window of opportunity to influence legislation when Congress or a state legislature is in-session can be very short. A personal phone call to your legislator’s office is always an effective and timely advocacy tool.

When calling your legislator’s office:

  1. Provide your name and address so you are recognized as a constituent. Also, identify yourself as a Farm Bureau member.
  2. Identify the bill or issue you are calling about by its name and/or number if you have it.
  3. Briefly state how you would like your legislator to vote.

It is important to keep your phone calls quick and simple since most staff multitask during calls to keep up with the volume of communication from constituents.

Here’s an example of a good introduction/90-second speech:

“Hi, I’m John Smith. I am a constituent who lives at 12345 Main Street, Springfield and a Farm Bureau member. I am calling to ask you to vote yes on H.R. 1234 and support farm programs. My phone number is 555-555-5555 if you have any questions. Thank you for your time today.”

If you have more time or need to relay a detailed positions, follow these steps:

  1. Ask to speak to the staff member who handles the issue; this staffer will relay your comments and concerns to the legislator.
  2. Ask for your legislator’s stance on the bill or issue and for a commitment to vote for your position. Remember to make “the ask.”
  3. Don’t guess at answers to questions. If the elected official’s staff requests information you don’t have, tell them you will gladly follow-up with requested information.

Visiting your legislators is by far the most effective means of conveying your message.

In a recent survey, 77 percent of congressional staffers said that an in-person visit carried the most weight in terms of delivering a constituent message.

Building a positive face-to-face relationship requires you to plan ahead. If you would like to visit your legislator, you may want to consider contacting your state Farm Bureau government relations department to ensure that your efforts and messages are coordinated.

Please note that legislators often can’t control their calendars and frequently ask their staff to handle meetings with constituents. A meeting with the appropriate staff member is often just as effective as a meeting with the legislator.

Here’s an example of a good introduction/90-second speech: “Hi, I’m John Smith. I am a constituent of yours, and I am here to talk with you about farm programs. I am asking you to vote yes on H.R. 1234, which ensures a healthy and safe food supply for consumers and helps farmers’ and ranchers’ production practices. Here’s a sheet with some more information. My phone number and email address are included if you have any questions. Thank you for your time today.”

After your visit:
Follow-up with a thank-you letter or email and include any information that was requested by the legislator or staff. This will strengthen your relationship and leave a positive impression with the legislator’s office.

Meetings with your elected officials provide an opportunity for you to discuss the work you do and how the issues they are working on impact your local community. You are their constituent.

Legislators come home regularly to their districts/states. During these "work periods," they are focused on holding events and meeting with constituents. In the past, they engaged in town halls, so they could talk to many constituents at once. These events unfortunately have lost importance given the interactions of the audience.

Whether you talk with a legislator alone, in a small group, or at a town hall, it is important to be prepared. Be sure to provide your story on the key issue and "ask" the legislator for their position. We urge you to look for opportunities for smaller meetings, such as "Coffee Chats" with your legislator.

Regulatory advocacy is becoming more important. The agriculture industry is affected by the increasing number of regulatory proposals at the state and federal levels. Regulations can have a longer and more direct impact on your business and life.

What is driving the regulatory agenda in agriculture? It is shifting toward the environmental, natural resource, social and economic aspects of farming and away from the traditional, public discussion centering on increasing yields and reducing costs for the producer.

Therefore, when the public comment is open, farmers and ranchers need to submit their comments to the public docket. Farmers and ranchers need to make sure regulators know their position on key issues. Regulators need to know the impact and effect of regulations on farms and ranches.

Many times, regulators want numbers of identical comments to show broad support. This can be in the form of letters, postcards or petitions.

Finally, it is important to remember the regulation process is never-ending! Regulatory advocacy is a marathon — an ultra-marathon! As soon as a new administration enters office, they will try to “clarify” or undo what the previous administration proposed and/or finalized. In the area of regulatory advocacy, it is common to fight the same issue for many decades.

Food and agriculture issues are a hot topic these days. You know the old adage, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will do it for you. And so often, those eager to tell agriculture’s story have biases against the way farmers and ranchers do their jobs. Studies show that the public has a high level of trust for farmers and ranchers as individuals.

There are few opportunities to reach a wider audience than through the media outlets. So it’s important that when we get the chance, we have members who are willing and able to represent what they do and why they do it when the media calls.

Want to find a way to amplify your message? Interact with the media. Here are some tips to make the media interview a success.

Interview Tips:

  • Determine your interview goal.
  • Stay focused on your key message(s), and repeat them frequently.
  • Think and speak in terms of headlines, followed by the story.
  • Block and bridge to refocus the interview or address difficult questions.
  • Keep answers brief.
  • Say only what you want to say, then stop.
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Remember who your audience is.
  • Never go “off the record.”
  • Meet media deadlines.

When the Media Calls: Questions to Ask

  • What is the reporter’s name and media affiliation (radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, website)?
  • What are the reporter’s phone number and contact information?
  • What is the topic of the interview?
  • What is the story’s objective or angle?
  • Who is the primary audience?
  • Am I the appropriate person for this story?
  • Who else will be interviewed for this story?
  • What are the date and time of the interview?
  • What are the format and length of the interview?
  • What is the anticipated date of airing or publication?
  • Are there any additional information needs?
  • Who else should be notified of this media opportunity?

Continuous year-round advocating efforts at home make all the difference on Capitol Hill. Advocacy shouldn’t be something that only takes place in Washington, D.C. Partner with your state Farm Bureau to try some of the following ideas throughout the coming year. The activities and times are suggestions, as many can occur at the same time or at various times of the year.

Year-Round Activities:

  • Recruit, recruit, recruit. Urge friends, Farm Bureau members and others in your community to get involved. Urge them to join your state’s advocacy program.
  • Take Action. Take action online via alerts sent by AFBF and your state Farm Bureau.
  • Make phone calls. A phone call may be the most effective alternative to in-person meetings with elected officials. It never hurts to call a local office with new information or to urge action on a bill.
  • Media Messaging. Radio? TV? Blogs? Newspapers? Social networks? Each can help you get the word out. Whether Share information with legislators on Twitter and Facebook or find mutual connections on Linked-In. Monitor legislator activities for insights into their interests and actions, then communicate with them directly

JANUARY: Welcome Back Congress & Learn About New Legislators

Action Item: It’s time to reconnect with your elected officials or introduce yourself to the new members of Congress. The offices may have new staff and they need to know who you are. Knowing the staff members means you have a direct line to the lawmaker. Ask how they want to receive communications from Farm Bureau members – email, phone or personal visit?

FEBRUARY: Advocate Recruitment

Action Item: Thank your existing group of advocates and tell them about any success story. Keep them active and ask them to join your social media efforts. Plan to recruit new members through a key contact program.

MARCH: Social Media Outreach

Action Item: Comment on a news article critical to agriculture or each day share posts within your network. Find a way to share story about your farm or ranch. Urge readers to contact their representatives and ask for their support on policy/legislation. Bring awareness on policy issues to farms and ranches in your area.

APRIL: In-District Meetings & Local Events

Action Item: Attend or host a local event for legislators who will be in the state and district. Now is a great time to make plans to attend. Remember to engage the policymaker before, during and after the event via their social media profile(s) and in-person at the event.

MAY: Advocate Recruitment

Action Item: Thank your existing group of advocates and tell them about any success story. Keep them active and ask them to join your social media efforts. Plan to recruit new members through a key contact program.

JUNE: Media Outreach

Action Item: Write a letter to the editor, an editorial, a blog entry for a local publication or a social media post. Find a way to share your ag story. Urge readers to contact their representatives and ask for their support on policy/legislation. Bring awareness on policy issues to farms and ranches in your area.

JULY: Member Recruitment & Local Events

Action Item: Tie-in local events (parades, fairs, etc.) including July 4th holiday and weekend events with a Farm Bureau membership drive! Let others know what Farm Bureau achieves through advocacy, in the local community and how you have benefited from Farm Bureau’s leadership development programs.

Membership is personal. It is not a subscription. It is not a transaction. It is a relationship. Tell your story of membership to encourage others to join!

AUGUST: Town Halls, Coffees with Congress & Candidate Events

Action Item: In campaign years, many candidates and elected officials host town hall meetings and other community events. Many state and county Farm Bureaus host their own meetings each August to meet their constituents. Attend an event and talk about Farm Bureau’s priority issues. Be sure to invite your friends. Elected officials and candidates are looking for endorsements and support from important organizations like Farm Bureau.

SEPTEMBER: Telephone Outreach

Action Item: September is one the most productive months for Congress, so be sure to call your elected officials and share Farm Bureau’s positions on our key issues.

OCTOBER: Policy Development

Action Item: The key of Farm Bureau’s advocacy activities is the grassroots policy development process. As your county and state Farm Bureau begin submitting policy resolutions to the Policy Book.

NOVEMBER: Social Media Outreach

Action Item: Comment on a news article critical to agriculture or each day share posts within your network. Find a way to share story about your farm or ranch. Urge readers to contact their representatives and ask for their support on policy/legislation. Bring awareness on policy issues to farms and ranches in your area.

Not on social media? Now is the time to sign-up for Facebook or Twitter. Follow or Friend your state Farm Bureau, AFBF, news outlets, celebrities and others.

DECEMBER: Thank Your Legislators

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