This month’s Policy Corner has a guest author, OFRF Policy and Communications Intern, Adam Bagul.
Almost as if chased away by the potent combination of heat and humidity that has descended upon the District of Columbia, our Senators and Representatives have returned back home to their districts for the August recess. Congress Members usually use this time to hold town hall meetings or to be available for in-district meetings. This break from the hustle and bustle of Capitol Hill presents a golden opportunity
Photo credit: Adam Bagul
for constituents to connect with their policymakers. Since 2023 is a Farm Bill year, let’s take a moment to delve into the Farm Bill process, a linchpin of agricultural policy, and use this recess to mobilize support for bills that will ensure a robust future for organic and sustainable agriculture in the United States.
The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that shapes agricultural policy, nutrition programs, and rural development initiatives for the next five years. My internship with the Organic Farming Research Foundation has provided me with a front-row seat to this intricate process. I’ve witnessed various organic and sustainable agriculture advocacy organizations, all working towards a common goal – a resilient and sustainable agricultural future. I’ve worked to promote different marker bills, legislation used to signal positions on issues within our legislative bodies. This work has helped me to see that the Farm Bill isn’t just an obscure collection of irrelevant policies; it’s about our farmers, our land, our health, and our food security. The bills that make up this Farm Bill will dictate the immediate future of agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry of the US.
The August recess allows Congress to step back into their home districts, reconnect with their roots, listen to their constituents’ concerns, and gain a better understanding of local issues. Showing legislators that farms and organic businesses are part of your community, how they make an impact in their districts, and communicating what support they need to be successful are important actions to take during this period. As citizens passionate about agriculture and rural development, this is our moment to be heard. Meeting with policymakers might seem daunting, but it’s an avenue that holds immense potential to create change. Here are a few tips to make the most of your interaction:
- Plan Ahead: Reach out to your Congressperson’s local office to schedule a meeting. Be clear about the topic you wish to discuss and your objectives for the conversation.
- Do Your Homework: Familiarize yourself with the Congressperson’s stance on agricultural issues and the Farm Bill. This shows your commitment and helps tailor your conversation. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the marker bills being considered this year. OFRF has great resources for you to do so.
- Bring Data: Numbers and statistics can be persuasive. If you’re discussing the impact of a certain policy, back it up with relevant data. Another piece of information to bring could be lists of organizations within your legislator’s district that are in support of initiatives or bills that you support.
- Be Concise and Clear: Time is often limited. Clearly articulate your main points and concerns. Provide real-life examples to illustrate your arguments. Constructing a rough road map of how you’d like to share information with your legislator is a helpful way to ensure every point that you’d like to make is included.
- Engage Emotionally: Share personal stories that highlight the real-world implications of agricultural policies. Emotionally compelling narratives can leave a lasting impression.
These principles for successful conversations with our elected legislative officials are a part of my daily work as an intern at OFRF. Amidst this bustling realm of policy and legislation, my internship experience has been informative and rewarding. From diving into research on agricultural sustainability to participating in policy discussions, I’ve gained invaluable insights into the complexities of policy advocacy in the United States. At OFRF, much of my work consists of drafting and sending communications to congressional staffers, conveying the significance of marker bills centered around organic farming research for the impending Farm Bill, such as the Organic Science Research Investment (OSRI) Act and the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) Act. Similarly, sitting in on meetings between various organic and sustainable agriculture advocacy organizations has been edifying. Witnessing the behind the scenes work and shared determination to drive positive agricultural reform has been nothing short of inspiring.
One particular initiative that I have been working with is the Safeguarding Agricultural Research (SARF) letter. This letter is a call for legislators to prioritize and protect agricultural research funding, written by OFRF, signed by organizations, businesses, and farmers from all over the US. The purpose of SARF advocacy isn’t just for Universities to receive more money for research; it’s about ensuring that our farmers have access to the knowledge and tools they need to overcome challenges. It’s about fostering innovation that leads to more resilient crops, sustainable practices, and a brighter agricultural future. My internship with OFRF has illuminated the necessity of agricultural advocacy: as engaged citizens we have a duty to communicate our priorities to our legislators and secure our commitment to the land and crops that sustain us. The August recess is an occasion for us to advocate for policies that bolster initiatives like SARF, in turn advocating for the resilience and vitality of American agriculture. Our voices, together, have the power to shape the future of our fields and farms.
If you have questions about OFRF’s policy advocacy work, or want to know how to get involved, please reach out: gordon[at]ofrf.org. As Gordon says: