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Insider tips for working with politiciansInsider tips for working with politicians

Here’s how farmers say they’ve learned to get their points across to elected representatives and key leaders in influential organizations.

Tom J Bechman 1

February 24, 2018

3 Min Read
STICK TO YOUR ISSUE: Build relationships first, Kent Yeager says. Once you have a chance to talk to an elected official or staffer, stick to your main points.

What will get your email read first by an elected official or his or her staff? “A personal relationship that you’ve developed will likely be what causes them to pull your email out,” says Kent Yeager, Corydon, Ind. “It requires going to meetings and investing time developing personal relationships.”

Yeager, Harrison County, is a farmer and retired from the Indiana Farm Bureau state staff. He serves as ag liaison for Sen. Joe Donnelley.

“Once you get the person’s attention, the big key is to stick to your issues,” Yeager emphasizes. He says it’s important to know what points you want to make, and to make them and stay on subject.

“Political leaders want input from constituents, especially on key, complex issues,” Yeager says. “They look for people who can provide input that helps them relate to voters in their district.”

Stay on message
Joe Steinkamp, Evansville, farms, but takes time to serve in volunteer roles with state commodity groups. He has also been featured at the Indiana Soybean Alliance Glass Barn for live chats with fairgoers via the internet at the Indiana State Fair.

Like Yeager, he knows the importance of sticking to the issues. “When you go to Washington, D.C., to meet with a congressman or senator, realize that many members of their staff are people in their 20s,” Steinkamp says. “Recognize there could be a generation gap. You want to get the staff on your side. Make sure they have your business card and know who you are.”

MEET THE STAFF: You typically get further in getting your points across to elected officials if you have their staff on your side, Joe Steinkamp says.

“Quality carries the day in the end,” Yeager adds. “An official’s staffers can’t contact everybody. Staff and the elected official will go back to whom they can trust for input. If what you say has value, and they know you understand an issue, you’re more likely to be one that gets a call.”

Show and tell
Through volunteer efforts with state commodity groups, Mike Beard, Frankfort, has found occasion to talk to not only state and national leaders, but also representatives from foreign countries. The subject is usually about ag trade.

“If you have a delegation coming to your farm, be ready to show them what you do,” Beard says. “Let them see what you do and why you do it. At the same time, you need to pay attention to them.

“What are their needs? What are they looking for? These are the types of questions you ought to be asking yourself.”

IMPORTANT VISITORS: If a foreign delegation visits your farm, treat them like VIPs, Mike Beard says. Show them what you do and why you do it, and start to build relationships.

They may be from Russia, China, Japan, Korea or somewhere else, Beard notes. Interpreters help minimize language barriers.

“Try to look at what you’re doing through their eyes. This is where relationships start. A big part of developing export markets is building trust and relationships, and these types of visits go a long way toward that goal,” he says.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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