How to tell your story with legislators

by Emmery Mehlhoff, NDFB Public Policy Liaison

A few weeks ago, I left corn harvest to go to Grand Forks and speak with the North Dakota and Minnesota Agri-Women about, “Getting to know their Representatives.” When I arrived, the speaker was talking about, “The Fake Meat Agenda,” how consumers have been misled by marketing campaigns pushing fake meat propaganda. She said as producers, we must combat the fake narrative and tell consumers the true story of agriculture. 

If we want to preserve our farms and ranches, we must also tell our story to our representatives. 

“Politicians don’t listen to our voice” is a consistent theme that comes up in conversations with fellow farmers. This is often a legitimate complaint as our rural district populations shrink and many other voices compete for the attention of our representatives. But more often than not, we complain rather than get involved in the political process. 

Even though getting involved in the political process is intimidating, I shared three steps with the group for building relationships with their representative. 

Step 1. Know your representative 

Who is your representative? If you don’t know, find out. Look up your district representatives on legis.nd.gov and reach out or introduce yourself at an event or parade. Take the time to build a personal relationship. From my experience working at the North Dakota Capitol, I know that every legislator has a non-political constituent at home they call when they have a question. “How will this new regulation affect pesticide application? I’ll call so-and-so.” Be the person they call. 

2. Be active in an ag-advocacy group

As a member of NDFB, you are a member of the most effective ag-advocacy group in North Dakota. When you get involved in the policy development process, you direct the position NDFB takes on legislation. NDFB gives you better access to your legislator and up-to-date information on policy that affects you and your operation. 

3. Show up

Take time during the legislative session to contact your representative. Call or send an email. Some of the younger representatives prefer text! Take time to visit and sit with your representative during a floor session. Testify in committee on a bill that affects you. By showing up, you bring the face of your farm to the Capitol. 

The voices speaking against agriculture seem loud at times, but they are not insurmountable. It’s your voice that cuts through all the noise because you, unlike the other voices, are a face your representative can see. Reaching out and showing up are vital steps to preserving the farms and communities we cherish. 

By building a relationship with your representative and telling your story, you go from this: 

To this:

You are the face of agriculture!

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