By: Dan Jackson
Let’s talk about ag industry organizations…I know this can be a touchy subject with folks, but I think now more than ever we need to strongly support these groups. Whether it’s National Cotton Council, Plains Cotton Growers, Texas Cotton Ginners Association, Corn and Sorghum Growers, Western Peanut Growers, or our friends at High Plains Wine Growers Association. What do these groups all have in common? They all represent different commodities at the State or National level.
Yes, they all use producer dues paid either at a gin point or other collection point to represent their commodities issues and concerns. I’ve heard folks say,” Why should we pay these groups when we elect a State Representative and Senator, or Congressmen and Senators to go up there and speak for us?” Well, the short answer is we’re outnumbered in the State Legislature and the Congress of the United States. We Agro Americans are a very small minority, and while our economic footprint is big, there are lots of other folks standing at these folks doors every day.
Let’s talk state politics first. At the state level, we have Plains Cotton Growers, and Texas Cotton Ginners working for our interest. I had a producer ask we what we needed these folks for. He said really all that impacts us is the Farm Bill.
I replied, “so water rights don’t matter? The infrastructure we use to get your equipment and the gins from point A to point B doesn’t matter? The tax exemptions you enjoy?”
These groups work tirelessly to keep unnecessary regulation in check and represent us when issues arise that need attention. Several years ago a lobbyist who does work for Texas Agricultural Coop Council told our Legislative Committee that the Sierra Club has folks at every hearing pertaining to the environment, which coincides with agriculture most of the time. He said within thirty minutes of the hearing ending every State Representative and Senator received
In Washington right now we are a very small minority that is not well thought of in some circles. Folks like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and the fine folks at The Heritage Foundation spend their days putting false information out about what we do and how we do it. Several high profile candidates on both sides of the aisle are beholden to these two groups. Normally the two occupy polar opposite ends of the pollical spectrum, but when it comes to Ag policy they are hand in hand. Sadly their attacks and misinformation are out there every day. Luckily we have the National Cotton Council and Plains Cotton Growers who rebuff the falsehoods that are put out there on a regular basis. That’s one area, but the one that really affects us is when we begin work on a Farm Bill. Yes, we have elected officials that do a great job representing West Texas, and Agriculture during Farm Bill negotiations. The problem is our friends make up a small number in the House, and the Senate. The way we get to talk to their fellow members is by having groups such as NCC, PCG and Southwest Council up there working and talking about agriculture. And yes, our PAC’s are very active, because that’s how you introduce yourself to a member who isn’t from a farm state. It’s not big money, but a donation and leads to opportunities to visit about our issues. We may not like it, but it is a tool that opens doors. I was told a year or so ago that to be a committee chair, you have to raise money for whichever party you belong too. The amount depends on the committee. Then they have to raise money for their own campaigns.
All this to say we are blessed, yes I said blessed to have folks who work on our behalf every day walking the halls of Capital Hill in Washington, and in Austin. You may not always agree with them, but at the end of the day they work tirelessly to help make sure we can all continue to work and make a living in agriculture. While dues are part of the deal, I’ve always approached it as insurance. That’s really what it is, and folks right now we need all the coverage we can get! Your dues go to fund these organizations and in turn they work to make sure your voice is heard, and that we have sound policy by communicating to those policy makers what’s going on in the country. They help craft policy that will make a difference to all of us on a daily basis, and they do it for what your car insurance cost. Please be proactive in making sure your interests are represented, let the folks you do business with know you support our industry organizations and their mission for agriculture…
As always Thanks!
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary do not neccesarily represent the