By the people, for the people: these six words ring throughout history. Now it is time for the farm bill conversation to begin. The bill won’t go to Congress until 2012, but it is not too soon to
begin contacting your lawmakers.
During the draft stage, it is important for those involved in agriculture to voice their concerns and opinions. The farm bill affects every sector of agriculture, from the farmer to the processor and even the retailer. It determines how tax dollars will be allocated throughout the term of the bill, including subsidies, research and school nutrition funding.
I have distinct childhood memories of my grandfather writing letters to our senators, representatives, governor and just about anyone with a vested interest in farm politics. He believed that ensuring the future of agriculture was a grassroots effort.
Today, it is easier than ever to follow the political process and voice your opinion, even to the point of engaging in political discussions with members of Congress. The Congressional
Research Service reports that prior to 1995 there was hardly any e-mail traffic between constituents and their representatives in Congress. By 2008, nearly 200 million e-mails were sent to senators and state representatives.
Another reason it is easier to engage in conversation with lawmakers is the rise of social media. Did you know that you can interact instantly with your elected representatives through Facebook and Twitter?
Ways to connect. In fact, social media may be the simplest way to engage in these conversations. Nearly all members of both chambers are actively engaged in Facebook. Their pages can be found by searching for their names or party affiliations.
Twitter use is not far behind. According to a study conducted by Burson-Marsteller, 62% of members of Congress are actively engaged in Twitter. The study also reported that 17% of those engaged in Twitter hold accounts for personal use as well.
The social media engagement doesn’t stop there. Many lawmakers are engaged in YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn and even foursquare.
To find your lawmakers on social media platforms, you can either look for their names in a search engine or follow the links on their websites. You can also find a list of all the Twitter users with seats in both chambers at www.tweetcongress.org.
Sen. Chuck Grassley said it best in a 2010 campaign ad: "I like to use new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter just to keep in touch [for] meetings in 99 counties every year. I’ll Tweet, I’ll text, I’ll do whatever it takes."
When engaging in conversations with lawmakers via social media, it is important to be respectful but honest. Ask questions that are important to lawmakers too. They are more likely to respond with meaningful dialogue if they are interested in the topic of discussion.
- Mid-February 2011