Grassroots Efforts Lead to Better Representation
Every year the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation hosts a grassroots policy conference in Des Moines for voting delegates, president and vice presidents from each county. Issues that have been brought up by county organizations and individual members are discussed. In fact, the opportunity for each and every person to voice concerns about issues that impact his or her livelihood and family is one advantage of Farm Bureau membership.
Last week I had the privilege of attending this two-day policy meeting in Des Moines where we discussed all sides of these issues. There are many sides to these issues because Farm Bureau has such a diverse membership: small farmers, large farmers, non-farmers, farmers who raise about every crop they possibly can grow in Iowa, plus those who have tried growing crops and found out the hard way that they won’t grow here. Yes, our members are very diverse!
Yet, we all come together to develop policy. After this meeting, the draft state policy goes the county level where it is discussed by members there. Any IFBF member can attend these local meetings plus each member can also submit their policy comments online. This lengthy process is great for anybody who wants to be heard.
Engaging in the lawmaking process is one of the most important privileges – and responsibilities – we have in a free society. (I’ll cover free society in another blog. Some of what was discussed by government employees at this conference do not fit in to a free society!) Often times I hear people make comments like, “I’m too busy to make a trip to the State House. I wouldn’t know how to contact my elected officials. One person can’t possibly make a difference.”
Here’s my response to that… If you’re not representing your interests, who will? You have a legislator’s ear because he or she wants your vote. There are several ways to contact your elected official: (1) phone; (2) email; (3) standard mail; (4) Town Hall meetings within their district or (5) a personal visit to The Hill.
Anyone can go to the second floor of the State House. All you have to do is fill out a little slip of paper requesting to visit with a member of the General Assembly, and then hand that paper to one of the door keepers outside the House or Senate chambers. These messengers will tell you if your official is present or not, and they will go inside the chambers to find them.
Last week I was able to talk to House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, my elected representative. A group of us from my district inquired what was being discussed by the Legislature and shared our concerns with her. On the Senate side, we talked with Amanda Ragan. I also visited briefly with Senator Sandy Greiner.
One of the biggest issues facing our state is worn out bridges, which were designed for little wagons and trucks used back in the 1950s. The high cost of maintaining our roads is also a concern. How do we find the money to fix them without bonding, which puts counties into debt?
Other concerns we discussed are mental health services, property taxes and education. How do we get Iowa back into the lead of education where we were for decades? We also had a conversation about the need to keep our soil and nutrients in place, and this is a topic that everyone seems to interest everyone. We talked about the state budget, as well. Our state’s budget is once again on solid ground, and we must keep it there!
As you can see, many of the issues we discussed are important to Iowans whether or not they farm. One of the reasons we feel strongly that farmers need to make their voices heard is because ag literacy is a real concern. Too many individuals in places of power have never set foot on a farm, yet their making laws and rules that greatly impact our businesses and livelihoods. Engage in the lawmaking and rule-making processes because there are fewer people who understand the day-to-day workings. These lawmakers need to hear from you!