How hard would it be to grow your wheat without applying fertilizer? You’d get a crop, but it probably wouldn’t be a great one, and with the rising cost of inputs, you’d be lucky to break even. Continue trying to raise a crop year after year without using fertilizer, and pretty quickly, you’ll find yourself in a financial hole too deep to dig out of, right?
Now apply that same thinking to the political arena. The “fertilizer” is the funds in our political action committee, or PAC, and the crop we are applying it to is legislators. Frankly, the deck is already stacked against us, and there are some things we have no say over, like redistricting. The one thing we can do is support legislators that have agriculture in their districts and moderate legislators from urban districts, regardless of party affiliation, who are friendly to agriculture.
The funds in our PAC (the Washington Wheat PAC) come solely from grower donations, and our lobbyist makes suggestions about where best to distribute those funds (pending committee approval). In most cases, the funds will be distributed as campaign donations. Many of the other ag sectors, such as potatoes, tree fruit and dairy, also have PACs.
Don’t like the idea of donating to a candidate from a different party? Because of redistricting, we are seeing fewer legislators from rural areas, and legislators from urban areas aren’t as familiar with agriculture. Another very important reason for building up a robust PAC is that it helps create long-term relationships no matter what side of the aisle a legislator sits on. If we want to have a say in what happens in Olympia, we have to reach out to legislators we might traditionally have passed by.
It’s a sad fact, that in today’s political climate, you have to “pay to play,” and we are falling behind.
Not convinced? Think about Gov. Inslee’s buffer bill. We were able to get it stopped this year—barely—but we are predicting it will be back, and we’ll need ag-friendly legislators to help us stop it again (or at least make it less harmful to farmers). Our bill that would have created a seasonal exemption to ag overtime never even got a hearing because there weren’t enough ag-friendly legislators in committee to support it. Remember a few years ago when a senator made the statement that farmers didn’t pay taxes? Or the legislator who linked Washington growers to slavery and human trafficking?
It’s time for the wheat industry to step up our game and support our PAC. Recently, many farmers have done just that, and I encourage you to do the same. If you would like to donate (and any amount is appreciated), your check may be sent to the Washington Wheat PAC, PO Box 184, Ritzville, WA 99169.
The bottom line is if we want to hand down our farms to the next generation, we have to make sure the people in government have a better understanding of what we do and why.