This is a busy time of year for legislation in many states. Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is a 501(c)(4) nationwide nonprofit organization, allowing us to lobby freely. Part of our mission is to help make laws more favorable for our members and fight against laws that would harm them.
If you know of a food-freedom-related bill in your state or on the federal level that you think our readers and members may like to know about, please Contact Us. Our Policy Committee would love to review it. To see bills that we’ve emailed our readers about so far in 2019, check out our action alerts.
Below, we explain some basics on how to be an effective food freedom activist.
The Power of Constituents
Lawmakers want to hear from their constituents—the folks who have the power to collectively vote them in or out of office. They log every email and call they receive from constituents. On many issues like food freedom, the legislators may not have any starting position, or they may be just leaning one way or another. In those situations, just a few constituent calls can swing them our way!
By the same token, legislators usually do not want to have their and their staffs’ time taken up by non-constituents. Getting besieged by calls or emails from people outside their district (and, even worse, outside the state) often just annoys them and can drown out the calls they do get from their own constituents.
So the most effective action is to contact your own State Representative and Senator. But what if a bill is coming before committee and your legislators aren’t on it? Still call your own legislator and talk with him or her about why you support (or oppose) the bill. And then ask your legislator to talk with the members of the committee on behalf of his or her constituents.
Now that you know you should reach out to your own lawmakers, it’s time to address the method.
Every year we get a couple of readers complaining that what we suggest readers do in our action alerts takes up too much time. They ask why we don’t make it easier on them and just create a form-letter petition that they can sign and be done with. The simple reason why we don’t create a petition is because these are not effective at making change at the legislative level. (If you’re one of those readers who’s complained about this in the past, we appreciate you wanting to take action and understand that life gets busy!)
Imagine you’re an elected official with hundreds or even thousands of bills that you and your staff are expected to read, understand, and take a position on. You get a form email or a copy of an online petition, where you can assume that 99% of the people who signed it don’t really know much about the issue and will probably never bother checking how you voted. Contrast that to the impact of a constituent who cares enough to take a few minutes to pick up the phone and let you know how she feels about the bill.
The most effective way to influence a legislator is to meet with him or her in person, but this can be difficult logistically. The second best is to talk to the legislator’s staff on the phone. The third best option is to send a personal email written in your own words about how the bill would affect you. That’s why our action alerts urge you to call, and recommend that you personalize your email if you use that method.
Last, when contacting your legislators, please remember to always be polite. You’re much more likely to sway a lawmaker with good manners, your own personal story, and concise points than with aggressive behavior.
We hope you’ve gleaned some valuable pointers from this post! If you’d like to receive our action alerts, sign up here and make sure that you include your U.S. state.
YOUR FUND AT WORK
Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.