Tomorrow, I set off for Washington, DC along with twenty of so of my favorite Illinois corn farmers. While we're there, we're going to talk corn policy for a bit (determining as a nation of corn farmers what it is that we stand for and what will allow us to continuing growing corn for generations and generations) and we're going to chat with our Illinois elected officials.
I know there are quite a few folks that are discouraged and even a little jaded when it comes to politics these days. I'm one of them at times. And I know there are swarms of people who are frustrated that politicians seem to seek only their own reelection instead of seeking to do their job and serve the people in their district.
What I say is look at the cards you were dealt and play them.
The system is what it is. And until it changes, our goal (and yours too!) should simply be to play the largest part within the system that you can. That means getting involved, knowing your Congressman, Representatives, and Senators, and calling them or visiting them. Because they actually do want to hear from you!
Millions of issues come across the House and Senate floor every day and your Congressman can't possibly know the details of every single one. Often, he's looking to his peers and his party to determine what his/her vote will be. But one simple conversation with you might put that issue into perspective and make him think a little harder about his vote.
Perhaps you can relay to your elected official that your farm has been in the family for a hundred years and now you are worried that you might lose it due to estate taxes. Perhaps you can talk about your desire to grow your livestock operation, but fear the EPA or the animal rights extremists will ruin your investment. Perhaps your family has occupied the same small town for generations and is now seeing an economic improvement from a local ethanol plant that you'd hate to see go under.
Whatever your specific instance, you have experiences that mean something to your Congressman ... experiences that he or she cannot understand until they have spoken with you. Experiences that might ultimately flavor his final vote in a way that you can't even imagine yet.
All this bang for your minimal investment to go see him or call him in the first place. Can you imagine if you kept this contact up? What context you could offer her decisions if you had a relationship with your elected official or her staff?
This is what the Illinois corn farmers will be doing this week - offering context to the myriad of decisions being made in the House and Senate. They will discuss how higher blends of ethanol would create markets for Illinois corn. They will thank Congressmen Johnson and Halvorson for their vote to move a free trade agreement with Cuba out of House Ag Committee which will open up markets for Illinois corn if passed. They will explain to the Illinois Delegation what better infrastructure on the Illinois and Mississippi River could mean for Illinois' competitiveness worldwide.
You could do this too.
Open up the lines of communication. Call or email your elected officials today.
ICMB/ICGA Project Coordinator