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Teaching Members to Fish

Teaching Members to Fish

You know the adage, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

I can’t help but apply that to our advocacy efforts in Topeka and Washington, D.C. One of the main pillars of Kansas Farm Bureau’s mission is to represent its members on issues important to them on state and national platforms.

While we are honored to be your voice when necessary, it’s the members’ stories that resonate with our elected officials. That’s why we would much rather teach our members the importance of advocacy and help them formulate their stories than for us to tell their stories for them.

Take Steve McCloud from Harvey County, for instance. He knows the importance of advocacy and forming relationships with his lawmakers. With Farm Bureau policy, his own personal story and some courage, he represented Farm Bureau members in Kansas with his opposing testimony in Topeka on House Bill 2740. This bill would have increased property taxes – something farmers and ranchers can’t afford. As a farmer himself, Steve shared how this would negatively impact his operation.

Then there are members like Jessica Brunker in Johnson County who, with six other Farm Bureau members in Kansas, participated in the Communications, Media and Spokesperson training at Kansas Farm Bureau. They learned how to tell their agriculture story and how to respond positively to media questions, as well as communicate with legislators.

It’s the more than 100 members who went to Washington, D.C., as part of the Leaders Engaged and Acting in D.C. (LEADs) trip to tell legislators how the current administration’s decisions affect them on the farm and ranch they work diligently to protect and pass on to the next generation.

We have members telling their stories, but we need more. According to Congressional Management Foundation research, “citizen advocates are more influential and contribute to better public policy when they provide personalized and local information to Congress.” Nine out of 10 congressional staffers surveyed said it would be helpful to have information about the impact the bill/issue would have on the district or state, but the report said only 9 percent of those staffers receive that information frequently. And personal stories? Seventy-nine percent said a personal story from a constituent related to the bill or issue would be helpful, but only 18 percent report they receive it frequently.

Those frequency numbers need to be higher. When Kansas Farm Bureau asks you to act, remember those research numbers and take a little time to include the story of you – how the bill or issue would impact you.

While we try to help make it simple and easy for members to send messages to legislators, it’s up to you to learn how to fish. Include a personal story about how certain legislation would affect you. Tweet to your legislators. If they support or oppose a bill that aligns with Farm Bureau policy, thank them.

There’s not a lot of us directly involved in agriculture anymore, but we represent a noble way of life. That way of life should be protected from undue regulations, increased expenses, misinformation and missed opportunities. We want to teach you how to fish (advocate) so you can eat (farm and ranch) for a lifetime. Be part of the conversation – talk to your legislators, neighbors, friends on Facebook – about your way of life. Be respectful, always take the high road, but be there. Be present. Tell your story.

Become part of the advocacy efforts of Kansas Farm Bureau by signing up for Legislative Updates and Action Alerts, and stay informed through e-news. It’s members like you – those who are proud to be Farm Bureau members in Kansas and want to leave a legacy – who will continue the success on each Kansas farm through advocacy, education and service.