5 tips to advocate for a Farm Bill for all

As Congress breaks for August recess, use this opportunity to get your message across.

By Peniel Ibe

Every August, most members of Congress return home to their districts for summer recess. This is a great opportunity to meet with your elected officials and communicate your concerns about the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill.   

The 2023 Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to improve food security and nutrition for people-- and promote climate resilience in the U.S. and across the world. This legislation is worth almost a trillion dollars in spending and is passed by Congress only every five years. It determines what food is grown, how it’s grown, and how affordable it is.  

As Congress begins working on the Farm Bill, we must urge them to prioritize the needs of our communities and the climate, not corporate profit margins. Here are five tips you can use to advocate with your members of Congress this August.  

1. Familiarize yourself with our #FarmBillforAll campaign.  

In the next Farm Bill, AFSC and partners call on Congress and the Biden/Harris administration to ensure that our agriculture and food system, economy, and environment work for all people for generations to come.  

The Farm Bill should:   

  • Help alleviate hunger in the U.S. and internationally. 

  • Support local and regional food systems, including the stewards of these systems—not big agricultural corporations.  

  • Fund a food system that benefits the planet, protects the environment, and addresses climate change. 

  • Advance racial justice and socioeconomic equity in our food systems. 

  • Support initiatives that do not undermine democratic practices and processes. 

Learn more about the #FarmBillforAll campaign here  

2. Research your congressmembers’ interests in the Farm Bill. 

Visit your members’ websites to see any statements that have been shared on the Farm Bill, hunger, food insecurity, climate change, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other areas affected by this legislation. This can give you a sense of what kinds of messages might move them, such as arguments in support of respecting the rights and humanity of all people.  

Check if they are on the House committee or Senate Committee of agriculture in charge of the Farm Bill. 

3. Schedule a meeting with your congressmembers.  

This is a step toward establishing strong relationships with your members of Congress, which is crucial to holding them accountable for the policies they create. It’s best to call or email your member's local office to request a meeting. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with staff who works on the Farm Bill, hunger, climate, or farm/farmer-related issues. Due to the pandemic, more Congress staffers are available to meet virtually via Zoom or similar online platforms. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow up for a response. 

My Reps is a helpful tool for looking up your elected representatives at the federal level. This site will also provide direct phone calls to their office and links to their websites and social media platforms. 

Make sure to tell them how many other people would like to attend. Small groups of five or fewer that include people from different backgrounds--or are associated in different ways with your representative--can be the most effective.    

Before your meeting, prepare an agenda, making sure all participants are clear about what they’re asking of the representative.  

Check out our messaging and advocacy guide for how to talk about a Farm Bill for all. You can also review more articles for more tips. 

Consider practicing what you might say with a family member or friend. If you have collected postcards, petitions, or other supporting documentation, bring them to the meeting. They are also useful to leave behind for your members and their staff to revisit. 

Make sure to send a thank-you note and follow-up with any information that was requested during the meeting. Request to take a photo of your meeting so you can tag them on social media and keep up your advocacy online.  

4. Connect with your Congressmembers at public events.  

Town halls, community gatherings, and other public events are good places to approach your member of Congress. Ask them questions about the Farm Bill, restate your values, and get their responses on record. To find out when your elected official will attend an event,  you can call your member’s office or visit their website for their public schedule.  

When you’re at the event, be ready to give them your “elevator speech” or question (one minute or less) on the issue. Remember that most attendees will not be familiar with the issue or the bill, so you are educating others when you ask your question. Don’t forget to document and record your interaction.  

Here’s a sample script you can use: 

 “Here in [your state], many people are experiencing [insert problem here]. You recently said {reference a statement or stance they might have recently made} I believe that the Farm Bill should [insert one of our principles here]. Will you put the health and wellbeing of our people and planet before profit and interests of corporate industrial agriculture companies?”  

You can customize your question by sharing a story (your own or that of someone in your community who is affected by this issue) or urging candidates to support or oppose specific marker legislation introduced. Use our “bird-dogging” guide to prepare your questions. 

5. Connect with your congressmember online.  

If you can’t schedule a meeting, reach out to your members on social media. Follow your member of Congress on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Post on social media about your experience at town hall meetings or anywhere else you’ve engaged them. Include photos or videos when possible and tag them to get their attention.  

You can also send Congress a message using our online form. Customize the letter to reflect your personal experiences.  

Thank you for taking the time to advocate for a Farm Bill for all!