The historic need for 15 rounds of voting for the U.S. House of Representatives to select a Speaker could not have illustrated more clearly how challenging it may be for this newly seated 118th Congress to pass meaningful legislation. And in a year when a new farm bill will be developed, that’s not exciting news for agriculture and the food supply chain.
What can we do to advocate for dairy’s priorities with these legislators?
“Trust, responsibility, and influence,” said Andy Novakovic on the January 11 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream. While these characteristics help build good faith and relationships in any circumstance, they will be even more crucial as we navigate a tenuous legislative balance to advance both the farm bill and other ag policies.
In an industry based in science, we can sometimes want to point to the facts and leave it at that. And although those facts are very important, trust must come ahead of that approach in order to effectively inform. It’s human nature.
“The reality is trust is more important than scientific evidence because scientific evidence is not unidirectional. It’s not like everyone says exactly the same thing, and a lot of people believe what they want to believe,” explained the Cornell University agricultural economist emeritus. “You have to be trustworthy before you’re going to be believed.”
Building trust can be supported by taking responsibility for the truth. When accurate claims are made about dairy’s environmental impact, for example, we must be willing to accept responsibility for that. Though they may sometimes be exaggerated, we know that cows do emit methane and there can be soil or water issues in agricultural situations. Taking ownership of the truth makes it possible for dairy to build trust.
That is only part of the puzzle, though. Taking responsibility also means addressing concerns. “Follow accepting that responsibility with a solution, saying ‘This is what I’m doing about it,’” Novakovic said. Dairy has plenty of good stories to share about what the industry is doing to solve those issues.
Novakovic’s final point was that even if we use those strategies, there will be folks who do not want to listen to us. In that situation, we need to be talking to the people and organizations that those individuals do listen to. It’s as much a public conversation as a governmental one, he said.
Any legislative relationship can benefit from being a long-term one, and those types of efforts will prove to be most helpful over the next two years. There is a great opportunity in this Congress to teach and share stories to shape opinions because half of the House of Representatives has never voted on a farm bill before, shared policy analyst Barbara Patterson. That’s certainly a bright spot in this situation because agriculture has powerful stories to share.
To watch the recording of the January 11 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is also available as an audio-only podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.