The greatest thing in a democracy is the ability to vote. It is somewhat relaxing when a political election season ends, and we move on to the work of the nation or state. I know some say they are glad when it is over. But for our farm organization, the ground work we do – and the effort to influence – has only begun. We will be working hard to get a strong farm bill passed, resolve trade issues, contain logistics’ costs, expand renewable fuel use, and establish truth in labeling.

When I say “influence,” I’m referring to messaging to candidates about the issues our members see as priorities, so that we can determine how they will respond to issues and opportunities, if elected.

The key issues we focused on this election cycle were family farms and ranches, farm income, the farm bill, trade and renewable fuels. I am pleased to say that, I believe, we had more candidates talking about the importance of family farm and ranch agriculture than in prior elections. The issue of declining farm and ranch income certainly was a major issue.

A component of successful messaging is to find allies that care about your goals and mission. Our studies show that consumers trust and support family farm and ranch agriculture. This creates an avenue of influence for us, if we continue to message the important role that agriculture plays in the lives of consumers and the importance of food quality, quantity and security. We all know how successful family farmers and ranchers are in delivering food to the nation.  

Strengthening the relationship we have with consumers will build our sphere of influence. That is why we do a number of projects that directly reach out to the consumer, so they better understand the plight of family farms and ranches. We need consumer support in our efforts to get policies we support, considered and passed.

Currently, we are reaching 50,000 consumers a week at our restaurants. Each of them is getting a subtle amount of information about agriculture. We are selling children’s books designed to educate children and adults about family farmers’ efforts to feed the world (as a member, you should buy a few books and send them to your city cousins to further our outreach). Finally, we are building a “Family Farms” chopper through Paul Jr. Designs that will grab consumer attention when aired on the Discovery channel and help instill this message: America’s successful food production system is rooted in family farms and ranches that provide food security for our nation.

As a member, you still have time to register for convention, Dec. 14-15, in Bismarck and see the unveiling of the chopper. You’ll experience and learn more about our consumer education efforts, and can help set policy for the organization in the coming year. Come to convention and participate!

– NDFU President Mark Watne