'Tis the Season...for in District Outreach
Margaret Krome of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute explains why this is the season to meet with your delegates. Courtesy of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Here’s one very effective way to have a grassroots impact on federal policy: hold meetings with key decision-makers right in your state (Senate) and congressional district (House). It makes sense. You don't have to fly constituents out to Washington, D.C.; they're nearby. The winter recess is coming up - January and February offer many opportunities to schedule a meeting (See the schedule below).
Why meet this winter? With Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow saying she wants to pass a Farm Bill by spring, this is the perfect time to set up meetings with House and Senate Agriculture Committee members. And with the annual agricultural appropriations process ready to start in early February for Fiscal Year 2013, it's also a strategic time to set up meetings with House and Senate Agricultural Appropriators. And it is useful to meet with your own representative/Senators, even if they're not on those committees or subcommittees, to urge them to sign onto marker bills (such as the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act) and familiarize them with who you are and why good food and farm policy matters.
A few basics tips to achieve successful meetings:
1) Set up your meetings early. Start now; it often takes weeks. Visit the Congressional Dictionary to find your legislators' district office phone numbers. Call and ask for the district scheduler. When they ask you about the topic, it's fine to keep it general: "2012 Farm Bill" or "Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations." Be prepared to nudge the scheduler every week or so until the meeting is set.
2) When they ask you who will attend the meeting, be clear, especially with House members, that these will be constituents. You may not know the names of everyone you will ask at the time you talk with the scheduler, and that's OK, but later you will have to tell them who will be there.
3) Try to meet with the member himself/herself if possible. Members' district staff are not as influential on policy issues as their Washington, D.C. staff, and as constituents, you are who your legislator wants to know.
4) Keep your numbers small (4-6 people) and choose your participants carefully to reinforce your message, dispel stereotypes, and demonstrate that important and varied groups of constituents care about your agenda.
5) Participants' power lies in their short, brief stories, illuminating key points of your agenda; you can be responsible for providing any reinforcing numbers, data, and one-pagers. Set up a quick call or pre-meeting ahead of time to identify who will cover which parts of your message.
6) See the attached sheet - A Few Lobbying Tips.
7) Let us know! If we at NSAC know you've had a successful meeting, this helps inform our work in DC! A simple email or phone call letting us know the meeting has been scheduled, and a quick recap after it occurs, is great.
8) Send a thank-you note. Thank your legislator for meeting with you, and restate your key message one last time.
Dates when members are likely to be in their state/district:
House: January 1-16, February 10-13, March 9-18
Senate: Jan 1-22, February 20-24, and weekends and Mondays in March