While farmers across the United States join the National Corn Growers Association for a variety of reasons, most members value the representation the organization provides in Washington. Legislation and regulation that supports agriculture is essential to the long-term success of the agricultural industry but, with less than 1.5 percent of the population engaged in agriculture, these issues often fall to the wayside.
This is especially true given the partisan political climate prevalent at the federal level. As the polarized parties deal with critical economic issues, growers must now remain in constant contact with their state’s representation in order to draw legislative focus to how these issues affect our nation’s farmers.
Last week, the grower leaders and state staff participating in Corn Congress, held in the nation’s capital, did just that. Many corn-producing states sent delegations to Capitol Hill where they spoke with their state’s members of the House and Senate and their legislative staff on issues from government support for ethanol and infrastructure to pending free trade agreements and environmental regulations.
“Time and time again, research has shown that farmers are their own most trusted spokespersons,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “It is essential that growers build upon the work that NCGA does on their behalf to make grower voices heard on Capitol Hill every day.”
With so many freshman legislators and new staffers this term, sustained educational efforts are of special importance. The work done by these farmer leaders and their state and national staff helps ensure that, as these new members prepare to draft key legislation including the 2012 farm bill, they understand how their work affects agriculture and the key role this industry plays in their state and the national economy.
“Meeting personally with our representation on Capitol Hill is incredibly important for us as farmers because it allows us to explain how their work impacts agriculture in a personal, direct manner,” said Douglas Melcher, the vice president of the Colorado Corn Growers Association and a grower from Holly, Colo. “Many staffers understand the importance of the economic contribution of our industry to the state. By explaining how proposed legislation impacts us, we are able to aide them in ensuring the best possible outcome for both farmers and the state as a whole.”
Melcher, along with state CEO Mark Sponsler and Don Rutledge, a grower from Yuma and director for the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee, visited many of their federal legislators, including Reps. Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, and Mike Coffman and Sen. Michael Bennett, over the two-day period. The delegation addressed issues important at the national level, pushing for ratification of the pending Free Trade Agreements and stressing the importance of ethanol, in addition to addressing the particular issues impacting Colorado growers, such as trucking restrictions.
To supplement these efforts, the delegations left behind information on the issues important to their states and NCGA’s membership. Members received packages of information supplied by NCGA in addition to targeted materials developed by each state. The Colorado team, for instance, left behind a booklet outlining farmer priorities and a deck of playing cards featuring facts about corn, farming and livestock in their state.
These visits come toward the end of the third annual Corn Farmers Coalition campaign in Washington. Featuring informative messages on family farming and the truth about agriculture, this campaign reaches legislators, regulators and staffers over a two month period in venues such as Metro public transit stations, legislative directories and over the radio.
Last week, NCGA followed up on these efforts by delivering copies of the 2011 Corn Fact Book to each legislative office, part of the Corn Farmers Coalition program.