NEW ORLEANS – The new 116th Congress poses challenges to farm and ranch legislation due to the increasing number of urban Congressmen. With the changeover in the House, it’s especially important for Farm Bureau members to engage with their Congressmen.

“Be prepared to do your homework,” said Cody Lyon, managing director for advocacy and political affairs, American Farm Bureau. Lyon spoke about working with the new Congress during the AFBF Annual Convention in New Orleans.

“You need to have a message. Know what you are going to say and who you are going to see before you visit a Congressional office,” he advised.

Lyon said having a face-to-face conversation with your Congressmen is the most effective tactic to get your message across. “A face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email,” he advised.

Lyon encouraged farmers and ranchers to become a resource. “Members of Congress love to come out to farms and ranches for photo opportunities. Provide that backdrop for them and that will give you a chance to interact with them. Never underestimate what they need and what you can provide. Become the go-to person for your senator or representative and his staff on agricultural issues.”

To change the perception of rural America, farmers and ranchers should talk about the challenges and successes happening in rural America and tell their story through the media and with their lawmakers.

Five conversations your Congressmen wants to have with you include:

  • Real life stories
  • What are the local statistics and impact
  • Specific legislative action
  • How state and federal funds are being spent
  • Your visibility and connection in the district

“Be sure to thank your elected officials when they support legislation you favor,” Lyon said. “If you thank them on social media, do it within the first 6-12 hours. You should post the thank you on Facebook within a couple of days. What really stands out is sending them a written thank you in the mail.”

He added that it is almost impossible to change someone’s mind overnight, and policy changes often require a continuing conversation over years, not a one-time visit.