Is it just me, or does no one in Washington understand where food comes from? Maybe I’ve watched too many Charlie Brown Christmas specials, but all I could think while reading the headlines coming out of Washington for the past week was “good grief.” Serious issues that affect agriculture, like the Farm Bill and immigration reform, seem to be the first topics elbowed out of the way when Congress puts itself in a tight spot.
And I’m not even talking about the current fiscal cliff. Truly, they need to get to that, as they’ve set up that trap to be sufficiently far-reaching as to concern agriculture, too. (The wisdom of setting such a trap is still beyond me, but that’s another discussion.) I’m talking about what happens every May, when Congress starts eyeing their summer recess and shoves issues important to ag down the list. I’m talking about August, when they return and draw up new legislation based on promises made to their constituents while back home in their districts — all while a Farm Bill sits there, overdue.
I’m no Congress scholar, but my husband is. (Yes, really.) And I’ve learned a thing or two about the institution and its members over the years. Here’s the thing: More than anything, our senators and representatives want to be seen as “one of us.” They want their constituencies to feel as though all the time they spent in Washington made them lonesome for the good people of their state. Nobody wants to be labeled a “Washington insider” — that’s why you hear that term in negative ads every election cycle. They are desperate to earn and keep their constituents’ respect.
Well, Congress, you want our respect? You want us to think you’re “one of us?” Then take agriculture seriously for a change. Don’t just talk about it — listen. Don’t just act — lead. Don’t shove our priorities down your list — take your chamber hostage before a pending recess and get some work done. Then we’ll know you’re in touch with who we are, and with our needs and hopes for the future.
And remember this: Nothing gets a member of Congress booted out of office faster than a preventable food shortage. Don’t make us stop this combine and come back there.