The Farmer’s Guide to Voting

Finding the truth about candidates' ag views—or any views for that matter!—is hard. Here's how to do your research so you can be confident in your Election Day vote.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

The Farmer's Guide to Voting - Photo by iStock/Thinkstock ( #vote #voting #election #agriculture

Election season is upon us, which reminds me of another reason I don’t miss watching television: all of those political ads! The one-sided candidate profiles rarely address real issues and even more rarely tell the whole truth of a candidate’s views. As someone who cares about food, farming and rural issues, it’s hard to find out where a candidate stands on these less-often discussed topics.

While you’re shaking your head at your choices for your state’s and district’s political candidates this season, do some research into where they stand on issues that are important to you, whether that be Farm Bill implementation, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) changes, environmental regulations or water control. Getting this information will take determination, so try these tactics.

1. Visit Candidate Websites
I Googled “senator website” to find the Internet presence for a selection of random Senate candidates across the country. Of the six incumbent and new-to-the-race websites I opened:

  • one had an “Energy and the Environment” section under its “Issues” tab
  • two had sections related to agriculture issues
  • three had no outline of issues whatsoever
  • all six had a line that says something along the lines of, “Senator Blah-Blah is dedicated to improving the lives of this state’s residents … serious about economic development and job creation … and determined to have safe schools for our kids.” If only we knew what that actually means!

This was just one web experiment I did in searching for Senate candidates. Check the websites of candidates for all of the elected offices being filled this year in your district.

2. Call (or Email) Your Candidates
Even when ag, environment and food topics are mentioned on these websites, they’re often glossed over in propaganda-speak, sometimes sounding ambiguous. If you’re looking at a candidate who has already served one or more terms, ask about his voting record on a certain bill that was important to you in the past year. If you’re considering a new candidate, ask how he plans to handle upcoming issues. Be specific with your questions, too. It’s possible the candidate doesn’t have an opinion yet, and you can help to educate him.

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The prospect of contacting an elected official or someone running for election is scary, but it’s not bad in reality. You’ll most likely talk to an assistant or an answering machine. You’ll get a call back, if you ask for one in your message—again, probably from an assistant. Your email will be answered, too. Believe it or not, politicians—OK, politicians’ interns, volunteers and employees—listen to and read constituent correspondence.

3. Look at Your State Farm Bureau Website
Your views and opinions on ag issues might differ from that of your Farm Bureau, so take their recommendations with a grain of salt. Many state Farm Bureaus outline the ag and food policies of the candidates they favor, voting records of incumbents and additional political information.

4. Check out Food Policy Action’s Scorecard
The nonprofit FPA is bringing food and ag issues to the forefront, rating members of the House and Senate on their food- and ag-related votes through it’s scorecard. Again, the ratings are based on FPA’s views, which might differ from yours. This is also a good place to keep up with recent and upcoming food and ag policy changes at the national level.

5. Talk to Farm, Ag and Environment Nonprofits
If you are a member of state and local organizations involved with these issues, see if they have candidate reports. National organizations also might track candidates on a state level, but they probably can’t help you with local officials.

I don’t know who I’m voting for yet in November, only that I am going to vote—and so should you. I’m not endorsing any candidates in this blog. Go do your own research! I still have plenty of research ahead of me, too.

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