America is witnessing an unprecedented political battle, never has there been a more critical time for the produce industry to join together in Washington for a strategic, face-to-face dialogue with key congressional members. Find out what Mark Gale learned at the United Fresh Policy Conference.
My faith in our system was slightly restored, however, when attending the United Fresh Washington Policy Conference—#PowerofFresh. Our task was to head up to The Hill to stump for legislation favoring agriculture and, in this case, specifically benefiting the fresh fruit and produce industry. Child nutrition, immigration and free trade were the topics at hand. United Fresh can give you policy points on each. (Click here and go to Industry Issues) What struck me most about this conference was the feeling that we—all of us—can still have a part in the American legislative system.
Here are three reasons I walked away from Washington with at least some of my faith in politics restored.
- Loud voices get heard. On occasion, industry attendees meet directly with their legislator. More often, it is with an aide. The message that comes through over and over again is that persistence wins the day. Precisely because there is too much to do, too little time and not enough budget, groups that push for a specific agenda item are much more likely to succeed than cynics who sit at home silently.
- Legislators want to do good things. Once, while on one of these visits, former Speaker of the House John Boehner related a story about the beginning of his career. He was questioning the patriotism and motivation of a political rival. A senior colleague called him out and reminded Boehner that a difference in point of view did not make the intent or belief any less sincere. This is a sentiment repeated pretty much every time I visit The Hill. As frustrating as it can be, it’s good to consider—and to have—the opposing POV.
- Participation forces you to wrestle with the issues. Whose version of the Child Nutrition Bill do you support? Are you for or against E-verify for foreign workers? Are there parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership you favor? Oppose? Having to walk into an elected official’s office to stump for a position on these and other issues has a way of making one pay attention to details. It is a humbling reminder that most of us do not know as much as we should.
No matter which candidate you support for President, remember that this messy system of ours largely prevents either from completely turning our world upside down. If you want to feel a little better, the next time you get a chance hook up with one of ag’s many groups and head for The Hill.
Trump vs Clinton. A quick hit list of the candidates’ positions on ag topics and issues.*
*As positions on ag topics and issues constantly evolve, this downloadable list is not exhaustive but was current as of 09/27/2016.