Participating in a Political Process with Purpose

by | May 24, 2023

With Lauri M. Baker, a CREE Co-founder

Don’t let the title of this blog scare you, I am not going to talk politics…or not the kind of politics you may be thinking. But I do want to talk about opportunities for you to engage in the political process on your own terms and with your own opinions. Advocating about what is right for your ag-based business is important, but you may not know how or why. 

Our Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement (CREE) team, along with the Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) team, had the opportunity to attend a Farm Bill 2023 listening session in my hometown of Newberry, Florida, in late April, hosted by Congresswoman Kat Cammack. It was an example of the American political process at its best. As the US House Agriculture Committee is preparing to draft the 2023 Farm Bill, committee members are holding field hearings in various states to hear firsthand experiences and opinions from growers and ranchers.  

One of the highlights of the Newberry listening session was seeing so many commodity groups bring their fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals to demonstrate the breadth of agriculture in Florida. With more than 300 commodities in Florida, specialty crops were a major discussion point, with many attendees highlighting the need for more risk management solutions for several specialty crops. As many of you know, specialty crops are near and dear to CREE because we got started working with specialty crops, and continue to work with many specialty crops as these are often directly marketed to consumers. 

The major points we heard from the 47 speakers who offered feedback to the House Committee were:

  • Funding to find and train skilled labor
  • Increased applied artificial intelligence for farms to allow for new trees and seed, less labor-intensive harvesting, and tracking
  • Improved risk management options
  • More staffing for USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices, especially during natural disasters
  • Improved disaster response programs
  • Improved H-2A worker process
  • Reduce farm labor shortages
  • Continued dollars for research
  • Need for carbon sequestration credits for agriculture

Many of you may not know that CREE was started using federal grant funds from the Federal State Marketing Improvement Fund, and we are able to continue operating and offering programming to you at low to little cost because of federal grant funds. Our recent projects on food supply chain innovations and marketing in a digital age were made possible because of federal grant funding designed to help growers increase their bottom line through improved marketing. Our partner programs, the PIE Center, the Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (SCCAHS), and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN),  all rely on federal grant funds to offer programming, resources, and learning materials and experiences for our stakeholders.

It is Important to Advocate

It is important that you advocate for your ag-based business to make sure Farm Bill legislation supports your specific needs, and the House Committee on Agriculture is currently seeking your input. You may be able to participate in future in-person listening sessions if these opportunities come to your local area. Or you can submit comments online.

You may be thinking, “No one is going to read my comments or listen to what I have to say,” but you would be wrong. For me, this process gave me flashbacks to when I was an intern for the House Committee on Agriculture during the 2002 Farm Bill hearings. At the time, I didn’t think a bill could encompass all of these perspectives and needs from every type of farmer to those who rely on the Farm Bill for food security through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)Women Infants and Children (WIC), and other nutritional programs. There were massive amounts of testimonies that we, as interns, had to copy and collate for the committee. Plus, there were emails and letters coming in from across the country. But I promise you, every single word was read. 

Many of these letters and emails were initially read by interns like me. We grouped the letters by topic and passed them on to the legislative aide who worked within the specific area of concern. Then the legislative aide synthesized the comments and passed these on to the chairman and committee members. Eventually these concerns and needs were addressed in the Farm Bill that passed the House and Senate and became law. 

Was it perfect? Probably not, but I fully believe everyone was heard in the process, and the committee worked hard to address as many needs as possible through the legislation. Your voice will not be considered if you don’t take the time to share your needs. Your needs may or may not match those we have shared in this post, but even if they do, you should still provide feedback because, while there is power in a single voice, there is strength in multiple voices expressing the same concerns. 

If you would like to hear the full opinions and views shared at the listening session in Florida, you may watch the recording here:

Other links:

WCJ 20 Article about the Farm Bill Listening Session

News and Information about Future Farm Bill Listening Sessions

House Committee on Agriculture Events Calendar