Fly-In Builds Unstoppable Momentum for Ag Industry
Feb 16 2023
Ag retailers perform for their farmer customers despite major disruptions in transportation, energy, labor, and overall costs. With that in mind, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) held its annual legislative fly-in on Capitol Hill to build momentum for common-sense public policy on behalf of ag retailers and the entire ag industry.
“It was great to meet with our legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said ARA Board Chair Ian McGregor with The McGregor Company.
“ARA members visited more than 130 congressional offices to speak directly with elected officials about issues from trade, workforce, FIFRA, and the upcoming Farm Bill process. These meetings were critical to advance the core public policy goals of our association.”
Photo: ARA Policy Intern Nathan Mynatt; Southern State Cooperative's Richard Lloyd; Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.; The McGregor Company's Ian McGregor; and ARA's Daren Coppock.
By splitting up into small regional groups, ARA members were able to meet with up to 10 members of Congress or their staff in just one day.
“I had a chance to discuss issues of particular importance for California such as water policy and water infrastructure, but also issues that transcend across the nation like transportation and labor,” said ARA Board Member Clay Houchin with Buttonwillow Warehouse Company.
Setting Focused Priorities
Before ARA members head to the Hill, they must establish the association’s public policy priorities. The focus of these priorities is always to benefit the ag retailer, which is why ARA’s Public Policy Committee is made of industry-leading volunteers who collaborate to identify the top challenges facing their businesses and that of their farmer customers.
“It’s important for ag retailers to bring their challenges to the table because we work to align ARA’s priorities with those challenges to focus our collective voice where it matters most,” said ARA Public Policy Committee Chair Dave Spears, MKC. “This is the foundation of a successful fly-in.”
Under guidance from ARA’s public policy experts, the Committee then forms the list of top priorities that will steer discussions between ARA and federal regulators and legislators in Washington. The ARA Public Policy Committee convened the day before the Capitol Hill visits to confirm these top priorities for 2023:
If you would like to be at the table to share your main challenges as the ARA Public Policy Committee sets future advocacy priorities, join the committee today!
Learning Advocacy Basics
Some ARA members are veterans of the fly-in; however, many had never experienced in-person advocacy in action. Conducting a brief Hill visit orientation prepared participants for what to expect when meeting with members of congress. ARA members were also briefed by partner associations such as The Fertilizer Institute, CropLife America, and others.
“This was my first time experiencing the fly-in visits,” said ARA Board Member Karen Whitt with The Equity.
“The briefings and the summary cards that we were provided by ARA were left at each congressional office to highlight the top policy priorities for ag retailers. The cards were beneficial to them as well as to us as we used them as targeted points to guide conversations.”
Photo: GROWMARK's Chuck Spencer; The BRANDT Co's Rodney Riech; AGI's Justin Friedrich; GROWMARK's Keith Lawson; Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill.; The Equity's Karen Whitt; and Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA)'s KJ Johnson.
With more than 80 members participating, ARA lined up a slate of senior officials from key regulatory agencies and congressional committees to field questions related to Farm Bill, CDL driver needs, and more. The slate included:
- Senate Ag Committee Staff Directors Erica Chabot (Majority) and Fitz Elder (Minority);
- Congressional Western Caucus Director Noah Yantis (Caucus chaired by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.); and
- U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Associate Administrator, Office of Policy, Larry Minor.
"ARA prepares you with the issues and facts to help you advocate on behalf of ag retailers," said Mary Hartney with the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association.
“Meeting your Congressional delegation on their D.C. turf underscores how vitally important these issues are to you and your business. This is one of my favorite events each year.”
Photo: CropLife America's Thomas Mills; FFAA's Mary Hartney; Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Fla.; and Helena Agri-Enterprises' Sean McCarthy.
Thanking Legislators & ARA Members
With the main talking points down, ARA members launched into their busy day of meetings on the Hill before gathering nearby for a reception hosted by ARA and its agribusiness partners.
Several members of Congress attended, including Republican Leader of the House Agriculture Committee Glenn “GT” Thompson, representing Pennsylvania; Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore.; Rep. Marcus Molinaro, R-N.Y.; and others. The reception is a way to thank both congressional members and staff for the work they do to support a safe and secure food supply chain.
Photo: Willard Agri-Service's Mike Twining and Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa.
“The one clear message I received from meetings is that food is a national security issue, and we must preserve and protect our ability to feed our citizens,” said Houchin.
Following the reception, which was open to all participants of ARA’s legislative fly-in event, donors of the ARAPAC (ARA’s political action committee funded voluntarily by its member individuals) attended a private dinner at the Capitol Hill Club where they were joined by several members of Congress.
Taking Next Steps
ARA and its member network will continue to bridge the knowledge gap between agriculture and Washington by scheduling visits for legislators in Congress to tour ag retail facilities in their districts and states. Facility tours increase awareness and education surrounding the crucial role ag retailers play as trusted advisors to American farmers.
"We enjoyed hosting Senator Grassley and believe he appreciated learning more about ag retail,” said Harlan Asmus, owner at Asmus Farm Supply, after hosting Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for a facility tour in Rake.
“We also involved multiple stakeholders from the local businesses which led to a broader discussion and really highlighted how many issues affect ag. It also showed that in rural Iowa, ag and ag retail truly need to work as a community."
Photo: Asmus Farm Supply's Harlan Asmus and Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Ill.
Use ARA’s Congressional Facility Visit Guide with best practices and media samples as a step-by-step resource to hosting a member of congress at your facility.
Join ARA to Strengthen Our Voice
The work ARA does to influence public policy in favor of ag retailers is only made possible by maintaining and growing its vibrant network of member retailers and suppliers. ARA members are leaders in the ag retail industry and have much to be proud of by playing an active role to improve the regulatory and legislative landscape in which they operate.
“We all need to continue to get our issues in front of our nation’s leaders to keep them informed about the importance of our agriculture industry,” said Whitt.
To strengthen the voice of the ag retailer in Washington, join ARA today.