By Randy Dwyer
More than one-third of Americans will take a family vacation this August. That’s a lot of family cruises and trips to theme parks and national monuments. August is also a time when Congress closes its doors and lawmakers pack their bags and head back to their districts for some one-on-one time with folks like you.
Why is this? The answer can be found in a recent survey that highlights the value legislators place on building better relationships with their constituents and learning how voters feel about what’s happening in Congress. Legislators and staff were asked: “In your opinion, how important are the following actions to understanding constituents’ views and opinions?”
The top two responses showed a virtual tie at 99 percent between “meetings with constituents” and “attending events in the district/state.” The common theme to both responses is your legislator’s willingness to meet with you and hear what voters back home have to say.
Traditionally, town-hall style meetings have been a go-to for legislators to meet and interact with constituents. But recently, many of these meetings have become open mic sessions for organizations that drown out the voices of individual constituents. But plenty of other options are still available for Farm Bureau members to engage with their legislators on the key issues facing farms and ranches.
Here are three excellent in-district ideas that have tremendous impact and build positive relationships:
- Organize a private group meeting between Farm Bureau members and legislators/staff. This one-on-one time allows for introductions and issues to be discussed in a local setting without interruption.
- Host a farm/ranch tour to bring your legislators and their staff out to see agriculture in action. They’ll leave with some dust on their boots and a better understanding of the passion it takes for modern agricultural businesses to succeed.
- Coordinate a public “Listening Session on Ag” with your legislator. This can cover multiple topics with Farm Bureau speakers. It is a good idea to make it an open session and invite the public and media. Farm Bureau members will attend, and it provides the media opportunities to report on ag issues in your area.
As you make your August plans, include time to meet with your members of Congress. They are looking for opportunities to meet you. Invite them out to your farm or ranch. Once they see the hard work you put into caring for your land and animals, they will feel your passion for agriculture and understand the concern you have for the issues they are tackling in Washington. You can coordinate this visit through your county and state Farm Bureau and find helpful advice here.
Source: Congressional Management Foundation 2015 Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy
Director, Grassroots Program Development