Meet with your legislators at home or in Washington, D.C.

It is important the organic farmers and advocates for organic food and farms meet with legislators to educate lawmakers on the importance of organic management for the planet, the health of our communities, and for rural economies. Please work with us to help you make an impact with your elected officals.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Annually OFA organizes an organic farmer advocacy day in Washington, D.C. preceded by an in-person training.   This is an excellent opportunity for OFA members to meet your legislators and their Washington, D.C. staff and share with them your farm’s needs and policy priorities.  Together, organic farmers nationwide have a strong voice when we work together as an association.  OFA supports your ability to bring organic farmer issues to Washington, where your voice can have the most impact!

2022 ADVOCACY DAYS:

MARCH 7-8, 2022*

*COVID depending.  Save the date, but stay tuned.   If we cannot meet in person, we will host Virtual Advocacy Days March 7-10, 2022.

HOME: IN-DISTRICT

At certain times during the year, members of Congress spend time at home in the districts that put them in office. It’s a time for elected officials to meet with their constituents and learn about what is important to them so that they can best represent them in Washington, D.C.  Face-to-face meetings are one of the best ways to remind lawmakers that their job is to serve the public.

Planning the Meeting

How do I request a meeting with my member of Congress?

To request a home district meeting, call or email the legislator’s home district office closest to you (not the D.C. office) and ask for the scheduler’s name and email address. Email a written request to the scheduler. The meeting request should include the issue you plan to discuss, a range of times you can meet, and your contact information.  If you are meeting in Washington, D.C. call the D.C. office and ask for the same information.

Check out our written request template to get started.

How long will the office take to get back to me? What should I do if they don’t respond to my request?

Elected officials have busy schedules and their office staff will likely remind you of this. It may take a few hours, a few days, or even a week before you get a response to your request. If you don’t hear back within a couple of days, forward the initial request to the scheduler and include a follow-up message. You don’t want to miss them while they are in their home district or while you plan to be in Washington, D.C.

If an additional two- or three days pass without a response, give the office a call. Ask for the scheduler by name — you’ll likely be prompted to leave a message. Continue emailing and calling until the scheduler responds. (Note: Call only during office hours.)

The member of Congress is not available, but the scheduler has offered a meeting with a staffer. Should I accept?

Yes, you should accept this offer — a meeting with a staffer is the next best thing and is very common. Ask to meet with a member of the legislative staff, ideally a staff person who works on Agriculture. Legislative staffers are most likely to influence your member of Congress.

How many participants do I need to create a successful meeting?

The best meetings involve a small group, less than six attendees. If you have more than six participants, it is less likely everyone will have a chance to speak beyond introducing themselves.  You shouldn’t shy away from holding a meeting alone or with one other person.  If you are Washington, D.C. Email Patty Lovera, OFA’s Policy Director, to see if it makes sense for her to accompany you to the meeting.

The office wants a complete list of attendees prior to scheduling the meeting, but I don’t have that information yet. How should I respond?

Tell the scheduler you would be happy to provide a full list of attendees once you have confirmed a meeting date and time.

How should I come up with a list of talking points?

Stories are our most powerful tools for change. Elected officials love constituents’ stories and will often relay them to Congress.  Use your own experience as an organic farmer or consumer to share why these priorities are so important to you.    You can refer to our 2021 Policy Priorities for Talking Points.

You should also ASK your member of Congress for a specific request. It can be difficult to pinpoint just one ask, especially if you’re coordinating with other constituents, but it’s essential to keeping the meeting focused. Designate one member of your group to make the ask. Your talking points should all support this ask.

So what is an ask anyway?

An ask is the request you are making of your member of Congress. Whether you want support for a particular piece of legislation, want to ask them to advocate for organic farmers at USDA, or want to express your opinion on an issue, you should have only one ask when you meet with your member of Congress. Your ask should be clear and concise and should request a concrete action or position.  Also, wait for an answer, they might be able to make a commitment or answer on the spot, or if it’s a staffer they might say they need to talk with the Rep/Senator and get back to you.

What should I know about my member of Congress prior to our meeting?

It is helpful to know your legislator’s background, including their political party, what committees they serve on, what issues they focus their time on, and what they did before running for office. You can get most of what you need from their website, which should have their biography.

If you have more time, take a look at the press releases they post on their website and their social media. What issues does your representative consistently fight for or against? How did your representative get into politics? What outside interests does this person have? Do you share an alma matter or have things in common?  Build on anything that will help you relate to your member of Congress.

During the Meeting

What should I bring to the meeting?

  • Proof of identification (you may need to show an ID at the door)
  • Notes on what you plan to say
  • Something to take notes with during the meeting
  • A digital camera or phone to document the meeting
  • Materials to leave behind (fact sheets, business cards, farm brochure, etc.)

How long do these kinds of meetings typically last?

Meetings with a legislator can be as short as 10–15 minutes, though meetings with legislative staffers may last longer. You can ask when you schedule how long you will have in the meeting.

I’ve never met with a member of Congress before. What is the process like?

Every meeting is different, but here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Enter the office, introduce yourselves and shake hands with any staff members you meet.
  • Begin the conversation by reminding your member of Congress why you are there.
  • Every member of your group should take 1-2 minutes to introduce themselves and share their stories.
  • The note taker you’ve assigned should take notes the entire time.
  • One person should make the ask.
  • At the meeting’s conclusion, thank your member of Congress and promise to follow up.
  • Ask for a photo with staff members and participants to document the meeting.
  • Leave behind information on the issue you’ve discussed and exchange business cards.
  • Email Patty Lovera, OFA Policy Director, to report on any information learned and that the meeting took place.

What if the member of Congress tries to redirect the conversation? How can I make sure to address my talking points?

It’s entirely possible that your member of Congress will be interested in discussing something other than the issue you hope to address. If this is the case, courteously bring the conversation back to your ask. You are there for a reason — remind your representative of this.

What if my member of Congress asks me a question I can’t answer?

You might not know how to answer every question, and that’s ok. Be honest. And, offer to find the answer and report back. Write down the question so you don’t forget it. You can email Patty Lovera, OFA Policy Director, after the meeting for help answering the question.

Following Up

How soon after the visit should I thank the office?

Immediately send a thank-you email to the office.  In the weeks and months following the meeting, follow your representative’s actions on the issue you spoke about. If he/she votes favorably in the future, continue to email a thank-you. It’s important to express support when our members of Congress get things right.

If my member of Congress needs to consider my request before committing to any action, how long should I wait for a decision?

Wait a few weeks before following up with a staff member. The staffer should be able to keep you in the loop and update you on any decisions or actions.

I met with a staff member and want to ensure my message is passed along to my member of Congress. How can I be sure that the information gets to my legislator? Is there any way to follow up?

Yes! It is the staffer’s job to keep his or her boss informed about what constituents are thinking. Email or call the staff member you met with if you haven’t heard back within a few weeks, but don’t call or email every single day. While the issue you discussed is important, staffers are dealing with a lot of significant issues. It’s important to strike a balance.

 

F.A.Q.

My congressperson doesn’t represent me well. Is it still worth scheduling a meeting?

Absolutely! This is a chance for you to convey exactly what you expect of your lawmaker. Whether you’re meeting directly with your member of Congress or with one of their aides, this is a great opportunity for you to make your priorities known.

How can I keep the conversation going after my meeting?

Sharing your experience with your member of Congress on social media is a great way to heighten the impact of your meeting. If you’re happy with how the meeting went, say so. If you aren’t, say that respectfully. Keep the conversation civil and be sure to tag your lawmaker. You can also write about your experience with a letter to the editor of your local paper. Lawmakers’ offices pay close attention to these letters to keep track of what their constituents care about.

Lawmakers (and their staff) also like visiting farms and other businesses in their district. If you have any open houses, field days, or other events coming up, consider inviting them. Or you could invite them for their own tour, which would create another opportunity to educate them about the policies organic farms need to thrive.

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ABOUT ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION

The mission of the Organic Farmers Association is to provide a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers. With the purpose to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform by: developing and advocating policies that benefit organic farmers; strengthening and supporting the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations; and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations.