Every day, policymakers and their staff in Washington, DC make decisions that impact farmers, rural businesses and the communities they call home -- and for Autumn Price, vice president of government relations for Land O’Lakes, Inc. it’s critical for Land O’Lakes to be an advocate for agriculture as policy is crafted.
“So many issues impact agriculture and rural communities, from trade, to immigration, to the Farm Bill and beyond, and policy is shaped by those who show up,” says Price. “Land O’Lakes and our members are an incredible resource for leaders who need facts and input to make informed decisions. It’s our job to be proactive and to be engaged.”
To ensure Land O’Lakes maintains a strong voice in Washington, the Government Relations team relies on the help of member-owners, Land O’Lakes staff and our industry trade associations -- an “all-hands-on-deck” effort.
Working together and amplifying our voice
It all starts with member-owners. Throughout the year, the Land O’Lakes Government Relations team brings members to Washington, DC to meet with Congressional offices and Administration officials. Most recently, in September, members of the Land O’Lakes Policy & Resolutions Committee were in Washington for three days of issue briefings and meetings with lawmakers.
P&R Committee Member Andrea Kilker, a corn, wheat and soybean farmer from Britton, SD, says her recent participation in the fly-in – her first as a member of the P&R Committee – was a reminder of the importance of face-to-face discussions with policymakers.
“It might seem obvious that we need to maintain relationships with our Members of Congress, and that we need to reach out to them, but too often we get busy and don’t do it,” says Kilker. “They need to hear from us about what’s going on outside of Washington and how the policies they create are working, or not working, for us.”The Member Leadership Fly-In in September focused on multiple priority issues for Land O’Lakes. During more than two dozen meetings with Congressional leaders and their staff, P&R Committee members discussed a range of important issues affecting our industry, including:
The need for a new, comprehensive, multiyear Farm Bill that provides certainty for agriculture
The importance of international trade for agriculture, including modernizing trade agreements and opening new markets for U.S. farmers
Moving forward on immigration reform to ensure a stable and steady workforce for agriculture
Enforcing FDA’s Standards of Identity for dairy products to reduce consumer confusion
During the fly-in, members also had an opportunity to hear the latest on key issues with briefings from Administration officials, and opportunities to hear from Congressional staff members about their day-to-day work on the Farm Bill.
Increasing engagement with the help of trade associations
In addition to member fly-ins, the Government Relations team works alongside several of our industry trade associations, making sure experts from Land O’Lakes staff have an opportunity to contribute to policy discussions led by those organizations.
Cheryl Isberner, a senior marketing manager in K-12 food service for Land O’Lakes, says her work in DC through the School Nutrition Association has provided a unique opportunity to impact policies that affect Land O’Lakes’ business and members.
For several years, Isberner has regularly attended fly-ins coordinated by the association, working with USDA and Congressional staff on a wide range of policy issues affecting food service.
“Building relationships with staff members on the Hill and at USDA is incredibly important, because we’re recognized as a source of expertise on key issues,” Isberner says. “Decisions made in Washington have a direct impact on our business, on our members and on people across the nation who we help feed every day. By taking the time to engage with staff and leaders in DC, we can serve as a reliable resource for information and it allows us to provide Land O’Lakes’ perspective on critical issues that impact our business.”
Price notes Land O’Lakes’ memberships in key industry trade associations span the scope of our businesses -- from milk production and dairy foods, to crop inputs and agronomy, to feed and grain. The collective efforts of the associations and their members are important to keep up a drumbeat of communications on Capitol Hill.
Overall, in 2018 Land O’Lakes has hosted or participated in seven fly-ins, with more than 130 members and employees of our cooperative lending their time and voice to help advance policy issues. They have conducted 117 meetings on Capitol Hill and 14 additional meetings with Administration officials and their staff members.
In addition, Land O’Lakes coordinated several farm tours for Members of Congress and staff throughout the year, helped host events at four member cooperatives and assisted with five events at state capitols in key states to educate policymakers about Land O’Lakes and agriculture.
“The fact that farmers make up less than two percent of Americans doesn’t make our story less compelling or our needs less important, but it means we have to work hard to get our message out,” says Price. “It takes collaboration, with our Government Relations team, members, staff and industry associations consistently sharing information and serving as a resource for those who are crafting policy.”
You can get involved
Anyone with questions about Land O’Lakes’ advocacy efforts or future events can email the Government Relations team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, with a midterm General Election right around the corner on Nov. 6, it’s important to take time to vote. You can check your voter registration status here -- and learn more about voting in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 General Election here.