For too many in our great agricultural industry, apathy is a disease clouding the perspective of their ability to advocate for agricultural policy and influence elected and appointed officials in seats of power.
I’ve heard all the excuses: “It’s always been like this. There’s not much that can be done. They won’t listen to me. The other side of the aisle is unreachable.” It can be easy to think the decisions made at the state and federals level seem beyond our control. Sometimes it can feel like a movie, and we’re just the observing audience along for the ride. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I serve as president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, chairman of the Stewardship Action Team for the National Corn Growers Association, and I was a member of LEAD Class 35. I farm with my dad, Terry, and brother, David, near Gothenburg, Neb.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be involved with many grassroots efforts with agricultural policy, through my involvement with NeCGA and NCGA. I first joined these organizations when I returned to the farm in the fall of 2011.
The Dawson County seat was open on the state board of directors, and a friend of mine on staff with NeCGA encouraged me to give it a try. I had been heavily involved with agricultural leadership organizations most of my life, including 4-H, FFA, Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute and LEAD. Thus the door that was suddenly opened for me seemed very natural.
Just pitch in
It’s easy to think that there are smarter people involved in agricultural associations that will figure this stuff out for the rest of us. Trust me, when I first joined NeCGA, I was immersed in local, state and federal topics well over my head. It felt like a whole separate world that I didn’t even know existed.
It was the deep end of a pool of acronyms and farm policy discussions, but the more seasoned grower-leaders and staff made sure I didn’t get left behind. They knew every producer, including me, had ideas and experiences that mattered to the corn industry.
It’s easy to assume you don’t have time to join a membership association, and that it will come with numerous responsibilities. While I would certainly encourage you to become involved beyond just a simple membership, these groups also have incredibly talented staff to carry the baton every day.
They bring to the table skills in social media, marketing, agriculture policy development, and even past experiences as Capitol Hill staffers and previous employment in state and federal agencies that we often find ourselves engaged with on agricultural topics.
They’re on guard 24-7, keeping watch at the state, federal and global levels to ensure your best interests are upheld. I find so much peace of mind in the fact that staff of our farm organizations are working in Lincoln and Washington, D.C., every day, so that I can focus on the farm.
Guided by the membership and grower-leaders, farm associations are some of the most powerful lobby groups in Lincoln and Washington, D.C. Sure, there are deeper pockets, fancier suits, bigger names, etc. But dollar for dollar, I guarantee that farm associations and organizations get more done than anyone else.
That’s largely dependent on participation and membership of folks like you and me. These associations represent both sides of the aisle, and states north to south, east to west. The absolute greatest resource agriculture has is its members and grower-leaders.
We each have our own unique talents and experiences. Some are very similar. Some are different. It’s that special blending of our similarities such as our farm work ethic plus our diverse range of backgrounds, skills and knowledge that makes us so powerful. We need to keep that pipeline of producers with ideas, passion and talent full and overflowing.
If all you have time to do right now is write a check for membership, do it. If you can volunteer on your county or state boards, do it. If you can get on a national commodity or livestock board to ensure that Nebraska agriculture is well represented by your ideas and experiences, do it.
I’ve seen congressional votes swayed, policy of an office changed, laws halted, amended and created in our favor all because of meetings, emails, calls and texts I’ve participated in. Do not sell yourself or our industry short.
The experiences and friendships you’ll make along the way will be well worth the few days it takes you beyond the farm gate. Your involvement may make the difference between the success or surrender of your farm and agriculture.
Jobman is a graduate of LEAD Class 35.