Strategizing Better Agricultural Engagement with Public Officials

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Farmers and ranchers would be best served by approaching agricultural engagement with public officials in a more unified manner, highlighting the underlying importance of having a strong agricultural industry. As legislators have a myriad of issues to consider when crafting policy, agricultural concerns need to be addressed and communicated in a manner that fits in that context.

“I’d really love to see agriculture take a slice out of every day of its life and understand what public policy can do for them, or against them. We must be more engaged daily,” said George Soares, managing partner of the law firm Kahn, Soares, & Conway. “We need to do a better job of it so that politicians, public officials, understand that we’re real too. We’re not just a bunch of people out there producing things and not caring about the larger community of interest.”

Along with representing agricultural interests in legal matters, Soares operates a dairy and farming operation in Hanford and understands the challenge of unifying an entire industry as large as agriculture. Whatever the issue may be, the agriculture industry would have more success by presenting a message that acknowledges the complexity of the state and the multitude of challenges public officials have to consider.

“We have to be able to relate to the bigger picture that they’re facing so that they’re willing to accept or listen to our message relative to agriculture,” Soares noted. “It’s too easy to simplify complex issues when you’re dealing in public policy. Our job is to remind these legislators of all that goes into the mix.”

Soares highlighted an instance of agricultural engagement back in 2009 that demonstrated what a unified industry can accomplish. An immense group of farmers, farmworkers and other supporters marched to Sacramento to have their voices heard. While the recession ended up taking precedence and prevented a vote from taking place, the overall effort was successful in getting a bond measure passed through the perseverance of the agriculture industry.

“We need to be people oriented in how we’re speaking about agriculture, the team that we are in agriculture, and I think we need to do more of that,” said Soares. “Because again, decisions made in Sacramento and D.C. can help us or they can take us out.”