Each year decisions are made on Capitol Hill that impact the food and agriculture industries and farmers across the country. As a farmer-owned cooperative, we’re in a unique position to speak with legislators and make sure they are properly informed as they weight decisions that impact all of our businesses. That’s why each fall we send members and employees to Washington, D.C., as part of our annual Leadership Fly-in.
This year, the group met with more than 30 congressional offices to establish relationships and address a few major issues working their way through the legislative process. Following the whirlwind couple of days, we checked in with Paul Coppin, General Manager of Reynolds United Co-op in Reynolds, North Dakota, and new member of the Land O’Lakes Policies and Resolutions Committee, to get a rundown of his experience in D.C.
Describe your business?
Reynolds United Co-op is a farmer-owned co-op located in the middle of the Red River Valley. We handle wheat, corn, and soybeans, and offer a full line of agronomy services.
Why did you join the Policies and Resolutions Committee?
I wanted to be involved in helping determine policy priorities for Land O’Lakes. As a member of Land O Lakes, I felt it was very important to provide input from a local cooperative’s point of view. I also thought participating in the committee would keep me engaged on policy matters, which would help me locally and give me a better overall perspective on issues that affect our business and producers.
Was this your first trip to Washington, D.C.? First time lobbying?
No. I’ve had attended two previous fly-ins Land O’Lakes’ hosted for co-op general managers and board chairs. But this was my first time as a member of the Policies and Resolutions Committee.
How did your Congressional office visits go?
They went very well. My group met with six Congressional offices and the staff were very engaging and knew the issues. They wanted to hear from us on what our concerns were and what we thought should be changed.
What issues did you discuss?
The new Farm Bill, immigration, tax reform, reauthorizing the Pesticide Improvement Act, preserving the Section 199 Domestic Deduction and trade issues.
What was most surprising to you? Any interesting takeaways?
I was pleasantly surprised with how well versed the staff was on issues that affected agriculture. They all were young but had a grasp of the issues. One thing that surprised me was that Washington, D.C., is functioning even with the daily “issues” that are happening. We watch the news and it gives us the impression that D.C. is at a standstill. That just isn’t true. When the daily drama is distracting, work is being done. Everyone we spoke to understood what Land O’Lakes is and what we stand for. The Land O’Lakes staff did an excellent job in preparing us for our office visits.
How will this experience help you be a better advocate moving forward?
It helped me understand the importance of communicating with congressional offices. We seem to put so much importance on meeting the Congressman when the key is to work with his/her staff to understand our position on specific issues. The member of Congress relies on their staff to educate them on issues, so building relationships with them is crucial.
Not everyone can go to D.C.; how can members get involved from home?
A number of ways:
Get to know the issues, whether it be a local one of one that affects people nationwide.
Members of congress all have state offices. Contact the staff at the local offices.
Attend a rally or a town hall for the member of congress. It shows them you are engaged and concerned about policies that affects your business, our cooperative and the industry overall.
Support the election campaigns of Members of Congress. It is so important that we show support to Members who understand modern agriculture.