Taking Action Through Advocacy
Sep 02, 2019
Every day, policy makers and staff in national, state and district offices make decisions that impact local communities, rural businesses, and farmers and ranchers. For MKC, it is critical to serve as advocates for our member-owners.
“We often hear our member-owners say they don’t have a voice with the people who make policy that impacts their livelihoods, but I can assure you that is not the case,” said Dave Spears, MKC executive vice president and CMO. “At MKC we are diligent in being a strong resource for policy makers who need facts and input to make informed decisions.”
Here is how MKC plays a role in advocacy on issues affecting our industry, our cooperative system and our member-owners.
Lending a Voice
MKC Board Chairman Allan Wegner, a farmer near Onaga, Kansas, says a special invitation to the White House in Washington D.C. demonstrated the importance of face-to-face discussions with policymakers. During issue briefings and meetings with Congressional leaders and their staff and administration officials including White House staff and USDA at the 2018 National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Washington Conference, Wegner, Spears and Board of Director C.J. Blew discussed the impacts of trade tariffs on agriculture.
Spears said, “As the only producers in the room, Blew and Wegner were afforded the opportunity to speak first-hand on the impacts tariffs and farm economics have on farming and our member-owners.”
The round table meeting in Washington D.C. included a select group of approximately 20 leaders representing the cooperative system including MKC gathered around the table together with policy makers. Others around the table included CHS, Land O’ Lakes, CoBank, Ocean Spray, Dairy Farmers of America and others.
In addition to the meeting at the White House, Blew, Spears and Wegner met with individual Congressional offices and their staff on the Hill. Other opportunities for MKC employees and board members to provide testimonial have occurred at multiple national and state meetings to advocate on behalf of all of their members.
Boots on the Ground
What started out as a special event to build relationships five years ago, the MKC Congressional Staff Day has turned into an annual event. Staff members from congressional offices in Washington D.C. along with district and state officials are invited to the one-day information sharing session. In addition to updates and awareness on key issues affecting both the cooperative system and MKC member-owners, staff members have the opportunity to tour MKC locations and meet local employees.
“Our size and scope allow us to collectively represent a large group of farmers and have a voice,” Spears said. “It is rewarding to host Congressional staff for a day and be in a unique situation where we can gather around the table and ask them what we can do to help them and be a resource for them.”
Through industry and trade associations MKC is a member of our employees are actively participating in shaping policy through membership and leadership positions. MKC staff have the opportunity to contribute to policy discussions led by those organizations on a regular basis.
Organizations like the Kansas Cooperative Council and NCFC work on a wide range of legislative and regulatory issues of interest to agricultural cooperatives and their farmer and rancher owners.
Members of both MKC and TMA staff play key roles in the leadership on the board of directors of multiple state and national trade associations including Agricultural Retailers Association, Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, National Grain and Feed Association, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Grain Elevator and Processing Society.
So many issues impact agriculture, from trade to regulation, to rural infrastructure to the Farm Bill. “When we come together and share our story, we present a strong, united voice that can make a difference, Spears said. “It’s our responsibility to continue to be proactive and be engaged on behalf of our member-owners.”