Posted: August 19, 2011
Some things from grade school still hold true. You shouldn’t forget what you learned over the summer, you should try your hardest, and there should always be a playground monitor. This August, while Congress is at recess, they need you to act as a playground monitor by reminding them of what they learned about the importance of pending trade agreements to agriculture.
First, take a moment to review the lesson.
The United States is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world. Developing new markets for our country’s agricultural products is vital to producer income and it also helps our sector lead the nation in economic growth and international competitiveness. USDA is forecasting the United States will reach a record high $135.5 billion in exports this year. Agriculture’s trade surplus is not something other sectors of our economy achieve. Passing FTAs will ensure our market share stays strong in existing and developing markets.
Now, it is time to try your hardest. Today, that entails actually meeting directly with your members of Congress. It is the most effective way to inform them how important the pending Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama are for rural America, consumers and the agriculture industry. Opponents of free trade agreements will be working hard this summer to kill support for the agreements. But your message, told in person, will make sure Congress knows the truth about the benefits of FTAs.
Scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress requires some homework. First, you will need to talk to their scheduler, typically located in Washington, DC. You can find your member’s contact information online at www.senate.gov, www.house.gov or by calling the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to connect you to their office.
Be aware that many schedulers have a policy requiring that all meeting requests be submitted by fax or email, so be prepared to send the following information: your name, hometown, and title; description of the issue(s) you wish to discuss; other meeting attendees (along with their names, hometowns, and titles). You can then expect the scheduler to follow up with you via phone or email.
Be prepared to offer the scheduler your available dates and times. The greater your flexibility, the greater the odds are that you will be able to meet with the member. If the member is not available to meet with you, there are still options. Schedule a meeting with their legislative aide responsible for agriculture or trade issues.
If you have difficulty scheduling time with your representative, you may also ask the scheduler if the member will be holding any public events, town hall meetings or similar listening sessions in the District that you might be able to attend.
Life, and government in particular, can seem complex and confusing at times. Just remember, the lessons that you learned early on are still applicable today. Use playground rules and make sure that Congress spends their recess doing something productive. It takes some work, but it can pay off for corn growers across the country.