When you tell your story, legislators listen and take action

Ohio Farm Bureau Board Trustee Roger Baker was in Washington, D.C. listening to a House panel discussion about the causes of the harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Lake Erie when his ears perked up. The questions and comments from Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson sounded familiar. That’s because they were some of the same points Baker had made to the Republican lawmaker the day before about water quality concerns.

“When it came time for him to ask questions, he brought up the same concerns I had discussed with him. I sat there and was like ‘Oh, my gosh’,” Baker said.

Both Baker and fellow Trustee Paul Davidson were in D.C. for a two-day lobbying trip in November, talking to Ohio members of Congress about water quality, taxes, immigration, the Affordable Care Act and other issues. The timing was perfect because a hearing was being held by the House panel investigating what caused nearly half a million people in Toledo to be without drinking water for two days in August.

During their meeting with legislators, both trustees expressed farmers’ willingness to do their part on water quality but also their frustration that other contributors have not been as transparent. Providing this perspective with lawmakers is an important part of the work members do on visits like this one to Washington.

“Ohio Farm Bureau is well respected. When we go and talk to them, they realize that we do our homework and are not shooting from the hip,” Davidson said.

Baker said the experience was inspiring for him and reminded him why it’s important for OFBF members to talk face-to-face with lawmakers.

“One of the biggest challenges is that farmers feel they don’t have the time to make those contacts,” Baker said. “But if you walk away from the farm one day and talk directly to an official and tell your story it really helps our legislators and the process.”

Writing letters and emails and visiting legislators while they are in their home offices or at local events are just as effective, Davidson said. While lawmakers may not always agree with what they’re hearing, they’re always willing to listen, he said.