It is very easy to stay more than busy with the day-to-day operations of a dairy farm. Yet, we know there is value in finding time to connect with the public to teach them about agriculture.

During the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference, dairy farmer Sadie Frericks emphasized the importance of making inroads with local, state, and national political leaders as well. Those individuals, she explained, have a lot of say about what happens on our farms when it comes to influencing policies.

“Getting involved with lawmakers is such an important part of what we do as a dairy industry and community,” said Frericks. She farms with her husband and three children in central Minnesota where they milk 100 cows. Frericks is active with several dairy organizations and serves on a number of dairy-related boards.

Her first piece of advice for connecting with political leaders is to let them know who you are. “Influencing dairy policy, like influencing consumers, starts with telling your story,” she shared.

The goal is to build and maintain relationships with these individuals. “I want to be their number one resource when they have a dairy farming or small business-related question,” she stated. Frericks said to stay up-to-date on who represents your area at each level of government, and if new people are elected or appointed, make a point to introduce yourself, tell your story, and hopefully find some common ground.

As for finding chances to connect with political leaders, Frericks encouraged farmers to get involved with dairy organizations that do political advocacy. Many of these groups offer opportunities to visit capitals at the state or national level to talk with elected officials.

Although visiting with these individuals on behalf of your fellow dairy farmers may seem daunting, Frericks said it is normal to feel nervous or ineffective the first time you do this. However, each time you participate in legislative visits, you will become more confident and more competent.

It is also important that these decision makers get to see agriculture firsthand. “Having a lawmaker out to your farm is hands down one of the best ways to influence policy, build that relationship, tell that story, and help them connect to the issues,” Frericks said.

She said if you are hosting a dairy breakfast or other event on the farm, or if your county fair is coming up, invite your representatives. Give them opportunities to connect with the dairy community.

Frericks also encouraged youth involvement. Including your children in conversations with elected officials gives them a chance to see the importance of influencing policy. It also reminds lawmakers that farms are family businesses and generational endeavors, and the laws made today not only affect the current farm but our kids’ future, too, Frericks noted.

If you ever get stuck when talking to an elected official and are not sure what to say, Frericks reminded the audience that it all comes back to the sentiment that what is good for dairy is good for America. When we lose farms, we lose other businesses in our small towns as well.

“Farms are good for America,” Frericks reiterated. “That’s why it is critical we are all engaged, in some way, shape, or form, in influencing policy.”

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
July 10, 2023

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