Public Policy Update

By Brandon Ashley, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator

Member participation key for GFB’s successful advocacy

There was once a little boy who didn’t speak, going his entire life without saying a word. One morning at breakfast, this little boy looked up at his parents and gruffly said, “The toast is burnt.”

Excited beyond words, his parents were happy to hear their child speak for the first time. After their excitement subsided, the mother asked her son, “Why have you waited until now to say anything?”

The boy looked up at his mother and said, “You’ve never burned my toast before.”

With our advocacy programs, Georgia Farm Bureau can help you communicate with elected officials before your toast is burnt. The GFB Public Policy Department is here to fulfill the organization’s mission of being the voice for agriculture in the legislative arena. It’s important that our members are engaged year-round throughout the entire policy process.

How you can be involved

It starts with being involved in policy development at the county level. Policy development is the cornerstone of GFB’s grassroots vision that began 80 years ago. GFB’s official policy gives our leadership and staff clear direction on what to support or oppose. In October, the GFB Policy Development Committee will begin reviewing and discussing the resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureaus and GFB Commodity Advisory Committees. This process concludes when policy resolutions are approved by the voting delegates at the GFB Annual Meeting on Jekyll Island in December.

An example of the successfulness of our process occurred this past legislative session. House Bill 50, or “Livestock Liability,” was signed into law this year. This issue was a GFB Priority Issue for many legislative sessions. The idea for this issue was born in a county policy development meeting, and it went through the whole process to be approved by the voting delegates. GFB volunteers worked with staff to advocate the need for this legislation.

Another way you can advocate for agriculture is by being engaged in the legislative process. While the Georgia General Assembly is in session, GFB sends out weekly legislative reports summarizing the status of various bills of interest, and the actions you can take to help ensure success.

Through our Voter Voice system, we also periodically send “Action Alerts” asking you to communicate a position to your elected official. GFB staff will provide the big picture message, but your addition of personal anecdotes will make the message more effective.

This is a simple process that takes a few minutes to complete, and can even be done from your smart phone. If you are not receiving GFB’s Legislative Reports or Voter Voice messages, please let the GFB Public Policy Department know; we’ll get you signed up and go over how the system works.

Cultivate relationships

Lawmakers want to hear from their constituents regarding how the application of laws will affect them. Tell lawmakers who you are, what the issue is, why the issue is important, how it impacts you, and what you want them to do.

Maintaining positive relationships with legislators when they’re back home in their districts is just as important as advocacy during the session. You don’t have to travel to Atlanta or Washington to meet your lawmakers; meeting with lawmakers and their staff out of their offices or showing them your farms is just as effective. First-hand, personal communications year-round will establish a relationship rooted in trust.

Legislators are often flooded with requests or criticisms. A simple “thank you” will go a long way in helping you be remembered positively when you eventually make an ask of your own. Some county Farm Bureaus have used their county office signs to publicly thank legislators who are supporting agriculture. This has no cost, takes a few minutes, and can go a long way in building a relationship.

Thomas Jefferson best summed up the need for citizen participants: “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

This article originally ran in Georgia Farm Bureau News. To read more articles about public policy and Georgia agriculture, subscribe to the magazine.

Brandon Ashley was the advocacy and policy development coordinator in the GFB Public Policy Department when he wrote the article.