Thought Leadership

On America’s Plate in 2023: Congressional Reauthorization of the Farm Bill

September 20, 2022
Stephanie Kundert

With the threat of a rail strike having recently been averted amid the deal struck between freight railroads and union leaders, farmers across the country are focusing on the harvest season. Collectively, agriculture industries contributed more than $1 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Among the factors contributing to the enduring strength of our nation’s agriculture sector is the federal farm bill, which is up for reauthorization by Congress in 2023.

Dating back to 1933, the farm bill provides certainty and risk management tools to help farmers and ranchers persevere through economic downturns, natural disasters, and agricultural trade imbalances. Passed every five years with bipartisan support, the legislation also supports critical food security, conservation, forestry, and nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In advance of next year’s reauthorization of the farm bill, members of both the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry began conducting listening sessions across the country this spring and have already traveled to Arizona, Arkansas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington where they heard directly from farmers, ranchers, producers and other stakeholders responsible for putting food on Americans’ tables.

As this process demonstrates, the best way for Congress to learn and fully understand the impact of such significant legislation is by meeting with those who will be most impacted in their communities.

That is why companies and organizations with a stake in their authorization of the farm bill next year should incorporate a similar, local, community-based approach within their broader engagement strategy. Whether this entails a local strategy which complements existing government relations efforts in Washington, activates your membership base, or launches a grassroots-powered digital campaign, maintaining consistent communications within key Congressional districts will help ensure your priorities are top-of-mind heading into 2023.

An effective localized strategy that includes the following will best position your organization in achieving your objectives:

Spotlight the success of your program(s) or project(s)

If your organization or any individual members were part of a program or project funded by the 2018farm bill that has been successful, promote that to members of the agriculture committees!

Harness existing relationships while cultivating additional relationships among influencers

Encourage your internal audiences and allies (e.g., members, vendors, suppliers, etc.) to engage their lawmakers in support of your farm bill priorities while at the same time exploring potential external allies who can also affirm the importance of those priorities.

Identify and activate local spokespeople

Identify members and/or allies in priority markets (e.g., those within the districts of agriculture committee members) who can effectively articulate the importance of your priorities.

Develop localized messaging and content

As referenced, the agriculture committee members are conducting listening sessions across multiple states as no two states are alike in terms of their unique agriculture-focused industries. For example, dairy farmers in Wisconsin will have different priorities than citrus producers in Florida. Your message also needs to be tailored to each unique market to ensure your priorities will resonate across each market’s diverse audiences.

Get creative with niche issues

Certain initiatives within the farm bill will have broad support for reauthorization, such as agricultural research and price income support for major commodity crops. But niche or newer issues may require a robust coalition effort and creative approach to generate greater awareness.

One noteworthy example involves the diverse coalition of farmers, entrepreneurs, and cannabis advocates who succeeded in winning over skeptics within Congressional leadership to secure the legalization of industrial hemp production within the 2018 farm bill.

Looking ahead to the 2023 farm bill, it will take a determined and collaborative effort among agricultural and environmental advocates to secure support for carbon sequestration payments to farmers.

When it comes to executing a successful, localized community engagement program, consider partnering with the experts in grassroots campaigns that reach key stakeholders from local agricultural thought leaders to Members of Congress and beyond.

With more than 30 years of experience and the nation’s largest network of local in-market teams, Direct Impact provides scalable, high-impact advocacy communications covering every community, media market, and congressional district across the country. We are a fully integrated agency within the world’s third-largest communications company. We have managed winning grassroots communications efforts for more than half of the Fortune 50, and we are well positioned to help you achieve your goals related to the 2023 farm bill.

As the adage goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re likely on the plate. Make sure you’re at the table and that your farm bill priorities are seen and heard by the right leaders, in the right places, and at the right time.

Stephanie Kundert is a Vice President at Direct Impact, the nation’s leading grassroots firm. A native of Wisconsin (“America’s Dairyland”), she helps clients navigate the state political landscape and legislative process while providing guidance on effective advocacy, messaging, and stakeholder engagement strategies in achieving key policy objectives. Before returning to Washington, D.C. in 2015, Stephanie spent nearly a decade in her native battleground state working as a policy adviser and committee clerk in the Wisconsin legislature and managed several state and federal political campaigns.

Franco Ripple is a Vice President at Direct Impact, the nation’s leading grassroots firm. At the firm, he leverages nearly two decades of public and private sector experience in advocacy communications and stakeholder and coalition engagement to achieve client objectives. Franco previously served in senior communications roles at the Florida Department of Agriculture and has advised senior leaders at corporations and trade associations on strategic communications and public engagement, including Fortune 500 companies in the energy, healthcare, agriculture, and technology sectors.

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