How to build a relationship with elected officials

Mark Rokala, Policy Director

Summertime for members of Congress and Senators means getting out to meet constituents and to learn about their hot topic issues. Elected officials consider introduction to voters as a seven-day a week, 365 days a year opportunity. They use the District work periods of the holiday weekends (Memorial Day, July 4th, the Labor Day) and the August Recess to participate in as many summer parades and town celebrations as possible.

They know that for every hand they shake and constituent they interact with, the better the chance that constituent will vote for them.

More importantly to the Organic Farmers Association, it allows you the opportunity to interact with your elected official to teach them about your organic business, organic integrity and our Association.

How do you develop a relationship with your elected official?

  1. Seek out your elected officials at public events. Congressional offices routinely publish their Congressperson’s District schedule because they want constituents to attend.
  2. Invite your elected official to your farm or business.  Just as important, you should invite staff to your farm or place of business. They play a very important role in collecting and processing information for the elected official.

To speed up the process of requesting a meeting, reach out to your elected official’s staff in the state office. You can find their contact information by going to House.Gov, enter your zip code in the “Find your Representative” box to take you to your Member’s website. Local contacts will be listed there. For the Senate, go to and pick your state for the same information.

  1. Be patient as each member of Congress has about 700,000 constituents. And, each state has two Senators.

You can increase your chance of securing a meeting by inviting neighbors and fellow organic farmers and your business partners to attend the meeting. You will need to drive that meeting request process by repeatedly following up with the office. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Put the local office number into your cell phone so you can call back easily.

  1. Prepare for your meeting once it is scheduled. Invite the local newspaper or agriculture publication to stop by towards the end of the meeting, make sure you let the member of Congress know press will be attending.

You have several goals for the meeting:

First, to have the elected official understand your role in the organic market, and to understand the opportunities and threats to your business. We want the official to think of you when they have a question about an organic policy and issues.

Your next goal is to help your elected official understand who Organic Farmers Association is and the work we do. Explain how our policy priorities are developed by organic farmers. OFA’s policy positions are on our website. Reach out to us if you have questions or concerns on policy related items or the organization.

And, most importantly, you want to develop a long-term relationship with your elected official.  When the elected official thinks of organic food and farming, we want them to think of you.  We are a grassroots organization.  You can, and will, provide important information.

The member of Congress will arrive with a staff member for your hour-long meeting. Explain your business, what happens to your business if consumers loses confidence in the NOP seal, and challenges you see facing your business. Make notes of their questions and interests. Let us know of those interests, questions, or concerns. That is important information for OFA to follow up on.

Post meeting follow up work includes updating the organization on the meeting, follow up with a thank you to the elected official and staff that attended and creating a plan to update them on organic issues of the day.

Let us know if you have any additional questions or needs as you work to develop a relationship with your elected officials.