Building Relationships

  • Know all about your legislators:  professions, background, affiliations, families
  • Know your legislators’ political interests/philosophies
  • Stay in contact and keep your officials informed …Don’t just call them in time of need
  • Know your legislators’ constituency (urban, rural, etc.)
  • Know what positions your legislator holds (committees, leadership, etc.)

Keep lines of communication open

  • Invite legislators and local officials to annual summer tour, flood control dam inspections and fall Awards banquet
  • Send monthly meeting agenda the week before District board meeting (as well as a public meeting notice at the start of each calendar year.)
  • Provide newsletters to government officials, producers and agency personnel, as well as annual reports,

    Herb Dunford, Director Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District reaching out to key lawmakers on VASWCD legislative priorities! Herb shared the following photo and comments “Had a very good chat with Del. John O’Bannon today at the GA. About 2 issues dealing with Ag. BMPs & Shoreline Erosion.”

    ACKNOWLEDGING SUPPORT from localities

  • Attend local public meetings to keep abreast of current local issues and address natural resource concerns
  • Encourage participation in District’s Strategic Plan development
  • Take an active role in locality Comprehensive Plan reviews & development of ordinances
  • Make displays available for government offices

Communicate a positive message!

You and the legislators you deal with should:

  • Know that your issue or concern is always an affirmative one.
  • Consider yourself “pro” and not “anti”. Being “anti” on an issue is negative, defensive and reactive. Working from a “pro” stance makes is far easier to keep communication open and influence the process.
  • Look for the win-win solution.

Personal Contact with Legislators

When you introduce yourself, save time by making it clear who you are and what SWCD you are with.

  • Do not “overkill” –stick to the message.
  • Most legislators have many demands on their time. Elaborate or long speeches will not be appreciated.
  • They want your well prepared facts and views presented in a straightforward manner.
  • Leave a copy of your position or fact sheet with them to read over at a later time.
  • Never make up answers –get back in touch with them when you know the correct answer.
  • Listen, listen, listen –especially with new legislators.
  • Seek a commitment –but don’t demand one before the facts are in. Give your legislator a chance to examine all sides of an issue.
  • Thank them for their time.
  • Follow up with a thank you letter and continued updates.
  • Attend VASWCD Legislative Day in January
  • Work closely with Association’s Legislative Committee chair
  • Respond to legislative alerts from Association with e-mail, phone contacts and written correspondence
  • Work with NACD legislative contact on federal issues, including Farm Bill, dam rehabilitation and conservation funding issues

Written Communication with Legislators

  • A personal letter or e-mail may be the most effective way of contacting your legislator.
  • Address it properly. Know your legislator’s full name and correct spelling.
  • For a Senator:
    • The Honorable (full name)
    • State (or United States) Senator
    • Address
    • Dear Senator (last name):
  • For a Representative:
    • The Honorable (full name)
    • State (or United States) Representative
    • Address
    • Dear Representative (last name):
  • Always include your last name and address on the letter itself.
  • Use your own words –not a form letter.
  • Time the arrival of your letter while the bill or issue is still in committee and there is time for effective action.
  • Know what you’re writing about –identify the bill or issue of concern to you.
  • Be reasonably brief –a single page is preferred by most legislators.
  • Give reasons for your position.
  • Explain how the issue would affect you, your CD and the local community.
  • If you have specialized knowledge, share it with your legislator.
  • Be constructive. If a bill deals with a problem you admit exists but you believe the bill is the wrong approach, explain what you believe to be the right approach.
  • Write a letter of appreciation when you feel a legislator has done a good job. They are human too and seldom receive thank you letters of encouragement.
  • Remember –on any one issue, even a few letters to one legislator can have an important impact.

Budget requests to localities

Make formal written budget requests in a timely manner

  • Categorize requests (operations, employee compensation, watershed)
  • Describe what funds will be used for
  • Calculate benefit ratio (for every $ received, __X__ benefit in services)
  • Include current financial reports, Annual Plan of Work, & Annual Report
  • Meet one on one with local gov’t. officials/staff
  • Report income generated in-house (through sales/rentals, etc.) and by grants

Invite Legislators to Your Meetings & Events

  • District meetings can be just as effective as meetings at the Capitol.
  • Invite elected officials to local meetings, field days and award ceremonies.
  • Host public events for your elected officials.
  • District staffers are just as important as legislative staff. Invite them to events too.
  • Don’t underestimate your ability to influence the future of agriculture programs!