Rural vote can’t be overlooked in 2016

posted Sept. 13, 2016 10:30 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Vincent "Zippy" Duvall

Country roads are an important part of the route to public office. There’s no such thing as “fly-over country” in an election year — and some lawmakers have learned this the hard way.

Farmers and ranchers are fully engaged in the political process. They know their businesses and families have too much at stake to take a back seat during any election.

While rural areas have gotten smaller over recent decades, lawmakers can’t ignore that America’s farmland and the people who live there are at the heart of what built this country, and what nourishes it still today.

Our nation is run by people who show up and make their voices heard. Our friends in Kansas recently reminded us of this in the primary race for their first district. Many of the district’s farmers and ranchers felt that Congressman Huelskamp had forgotten his neighbors and the people who sent him to Washington, especially when it came to his lack of support for the farm bill that provides a safety net for farmers when prices plummet and ensures we can continue to feed ourselves. The Kansas Farm Bureau took a firm stance by calling out Huelskamp and endorsing his primary opponent Roger Marshall, to ensure agriculture in the first district would once again have a voice on Capitol Hill. Voters then stood up on primary day and called for a different approach to politics.

Maintaining a healthy agriculture and strong food security requires a willingness to reach across party lines to find solutions that work. Huelskamp’s rural constituents are sending him home after his term ends this year. That’s what happens when a lawmaker becomes more beholden to groups in Washington than their own constituents.

Whether it’s the presidential ticket or a vote for a county board member, every farmer and rancher needs to be informed on where candidates stand and hold them accountable for their campaign trail promises. Our voices only stop counting when we fail to make them heard.

At the American Farm Bureau, we’ve been studying the candidates’ platforms to see where they stand on the issues facing agriculture. One great resource our staff has been keeping up with since early in the primary season is our election blog (election16.fb.org). We encourage you to check it out for updates at the national level, and reach out to your states and counties for more information on local elections.

Our country needs leaders at every level of government who will listen to farmers and ranchers and work together to find practical solutions. We need to maintain a strong farm safety net. We need elected leaders who help expand markets for our agricultural exports through new free trade agreements that protect our interests abroad, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

From reforming our immigration and guest worker system to stamping out regulatory overreach, we need men and women in office who will roll up their sleeves and address these critical issues, even when the excitement of campaign season is long over.

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Ga., is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.






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