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Building Relationships to Make Waves in Politics

Jul 26, 2023

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Video: Building Relationships to Make Waves in Politics

When it comes to making waves politically, there’s much more to it than just sitting down and explaining your priorities to a politician. For the producer and industry associations representing agriculture politically, it starts with building a relationship so that when they sit down to share those priorities, they’re listened to.

“Politicians are lobbied 10 to 12 times a day. So how do you make that difference, so that you're heard, that your issues are heard, and they're understood. A lot of that depends on how you build the relationships with those individuals,” Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says during the July 19 episode of Seed Speaks. “There is a lot of time and effort put into establishing those relationships, because if somebody doesn't like you, they're not going to speak to you.”

A lot of strategy is put towards how those relationships are built and those policies shared. At the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), they utilize committees and working groups who work together to provide policy guidance on various topics. Some of those committees are longstanding while others are established to deal with specific timely issues. From there, ASTA staff and members work to build relationships with politicians involved in the issues they’re working on. However, ASTA encourages all its members, not just those on committees, to build relationships with politicians.

“We love to bring our own members to town so that they can really speak from their experiences. We always encourage our ASTA members to invite members of Congress or government officials, to their facilities, to their operations for educational opportunities, and to really help those policymakers understand the areas that they're developing these policies in,” Janae Brady, vice-president of government affairs for ASTA, explains during the episode.

It's not just politicians who have agricultural backgrounds that associations are working with and lobbying, it’s politicians from all walks of life who are involved in financial, policy and many other aspects of politics. It’s important to teach these politicians about agriculture to help them make fully informed political decisions.

“When you're lobbying on a particular issue, there's an education piece to this that has to start first, so they understand where you're coming from,” explains Currie. “I would say that's probably our single biggest struggle that we deal with is making sure people understand what we're talking about on the political side.”

To gain that trust to teach politicians about agriculture, associations must work to make themselves the go to trusted resource. Brady previously worked as a political staffer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Coming from that side of the equation, she understands/knows how important it is for those working in politics to have the right people to call to explain things to them.

At ASTA “what we strive for, is to be a resource for those on Capitol Hill and for those agencies. And you do that through building those relationships,” she explains.