The most obvious reason why Indiana Farm Bureau sends members to Washington, D.C., is that this allows grassroots leaders to lobby senators and representatives about issues of importance to INFB.
But another reason is that such trips provide a unique leadership development opportunity, said Bob White, INFB national government relations director.
On March 20-22, 36 members will be joined by INFB staff for the annual leader trip. Each year, half of Indiana’s county Farm Bureaus are invited to send a representative, with the other half being invited the next year.
For INFB, the most important part of the trip is when the group splits up according to congressional districts to meet with their members of Congress and when the entire group meets with Indiana’s senators.
“Grassroots lobbying is the heart of Farm Bureau,” White said.
Prior to the Capitol Hill visits, the group will be briefed on priority issues by the American Farm Bureau Federation’s lobbying staff. There is generally a visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture or an embassy, “and there should be a little time for individual sightseeing,” he added.
Marv Ulmet, president of the Monroe County Farm Bureau, will be on this year’s trip. He’s been before, courtesy of Farm Bureau and other ag organizations, and he says it’s always an interesting and useful experience.
“You kind of see where the legislators work – what actually happens inside the offices,” he said. “You get to make those connections and see how they work.
“That’s pretty interesting,” he said. “It’s nice to know that we’re all human and that when we go to D.C. and ask, they listen and their staffers listen. They’re very in tune with agriculture.”
Ulmet added that he’s gives a lot of credit for the success of the trips to Farm Bureau.
“Whenever you walk into the office as a Farm Bureau member, the legislator knows what Farm Bureau stands for, and you put a face to the name,” he said. “And Farm Bureau makes that happen.”
And he had these words of advice for anyone going on their first lobbying trip to Washington: “Wear comfortable shoes – and plan to be always on the move.