Various legislators, their staff and other important stakeholders remain critical as agriculture evolves in a changing world. If nothing else taught us how important the work is of growing food and fiber to meet the needs of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly triggered a keen awareness of the essential nature of what happens in agriculture and the rural communities supporting these operations. Education is critical.
How the education gets delivered may change a bit, but it will still be necessary to couple it with fundraising. The Farm Credit System plays an essential role in delivering not only capital financing, but also the education of the policy makers on the overall value proposition of agriculture. Changes in practices to provide this knowledge are now being considered.
Fundraising will be different, and certainly less will be in-person during the short term. Use of Farm Credit PAC, the MI GreenStone PAC and the Wisconsin Farm Credit PAC proceeds will continue to be delivered during these important election cycles.
Online fundraisers by legislators and how they function in terms of interaction will likely be a more normal occurrence, even though they will not be as impactful as an in-person meeting. In past virtual receptions, the multi-client government affairs business will be the moderator and parcel out one-on-one time within the virtual video technology with the legislator. Individual, remote scheduled sessions will likely be preferred, not only by the legislator but by the constituents.
In the event there is an in-person fundraiser, many precautions will be taken. All in-person fundraisers will coincide with all social distance practices. As of now, this includes 50% capacity in all enclosed buildings, six feet of separation between people, and facial coverings when appropriate. Elbow bumps will replace handshakes, so keep the elbows sharp if necessary, to make the point. While different, we do not expect this to be a major inconvenience in the education process.
It also should be mentioned that more creative venues like outdoor spaces have been trending as it allows for more space and safety. Frankly, this should make a meeting more focused on our issues as we could be in an area that farmers work in – outside.
Legislative in-person fundraisers are now being scheduled for later this summer / early fall, and most people seem to be holding out to participate then rather than stepping into the technology driven remote meeting options. When looking at the Legislative body, the Michigan House GOP have hosted in-person fundraisers in recent weeks and will continue to do so, as has the Wisconsin GOP. There have even been House Democrats in both Michigan and Wisconsin that are beginning to do the same.
However, until people get comfortable with being in the same room together, nearly every legislator is open to a virtual “check presentation”. This may be a good way forward not only now, but in the future, as it provides exclusive insight between a constituent and legislator with an opportunity to keep it personal and professional.
Regardless of how the education happens, it has to happen. Without education of policymakers and their teams, we remain susceptible to decisions made without full consideration of the realities of agriculture and our rural communities. GreenStone remains committed to the mission of supporting its cooperative members every way possible, including educating the people making important decisions that affect our lives and families.
To view the article in the online 2020 Summer Partners Magazine, click here.