RUNNING FOR OFFICE: ADVICE FOR FARMERS

Taylor McDonald

Mar, 15, 2017  |  Today's News

As a grassroots organization, Illinois Corn Growers Association believes that every farmer's voice counts. We continue to work tirelessly to support our local, state, and national legislators on important farm policies and we sincerely thank these leaders as they continue to advocate for agriculture. However, we need more farmers in office. Your multi-generational knowledge of farming allows you to understand how the small choices affect the bigger picture. This past year, Illinois lost one of its only farmer representatives in the General Assembly. Yet, Senator John Sullivan was an effective force and voice for rural Illinois until his retirement. We need farmers like you to continue that legacy. 

If you have ever considered running for office on behalf of Illinois farmers, here's a helpful starting place from FarmWeek :

McHenry County farmer who unsuccessfully ran for the Illinois House of Representatives last year says every county Farm Bureau has at least one person capable of serving in the General Assembly.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to McHenry County farmer John Bartman's presentation at the Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference in Springfield. (Photos by Catrina Rawson)

Just a year ago, running for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly wasn’t a goal for McHenry County farmer John Bartman. Flash forward to July 2016, and the 39-year-old Democrat from Marengo found himself running for the Illinois House of Representatives.

Today, Bartman shares campaign lessons geared specifically for farmers, information he gained during his campaign that unfortunately was not successful. Bartman spoke during the first general session of the Illinois Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference in Springfield.

Bartman advises other farmers considering running for office to enlist the help of the entire community.

“Every county Farm Bureau has one person with the ability to be a representative or a senator in the General Assembly,” Bartman told FarmWeek. “The (county Farm Bureau) board needs to encourage that person to run. … We need to have more farmers pick up the pace and run.”

Here is Bartman’s top advice to farmer candidates:

Be sure your family is on board. Candidates, especially farmers, need family support because campaigning and serving in office is a major time commitment, and family members need to take on additional farm duties. Candidates also become public figures, and family members need to understand that.

Let the county Farm Bureau board know. County Farm Bureau boards can share information about potential resources, and board directors have individual strengths that may be beneficial – both from a political standpoint and from a farming one. “We (candidates) need the whole community, really,” Bartman said.

Develop a commodity-marketing plan, and make sure your broker and elevator know about the plan and your candidacy. Sometimes the difference between breaking even and losing money can be 30 minutes in capturing the market. During the campaign, a farmer candidate can’t follow the market as closely at times and needs to rely on his professional team. “Let the elevator know the price point you want to hit,” Bartman advised.

Inform your agronomy and agrichemical advisers about your candidacy and your reasons. It is very important for them to help take care of crops and the farming operation while the farmer candidate is on the campaign trail. Bartman praised his advisers for doing “a fantastic job” and scouting his fields.

Work with equipment dealers and take advantage of equipment inspections. “You want your equipment to be in topnotch shape. You can’t afford to have equipment breaking down,” Bartman said.

Have the county Farm Bureau board contact and follow up with key Farm Bureau members. “Let them (key members) know it is important for you to be elected,” he recommended.

“I wish I had been able to have these (tips) in place,” Bartman said, adding that he did have a commodity-marketing plan developed. 

Given the divisive political season, Bartman, as a former candidate, wants the public to know: “The vast majority of people who want to run want to do a good job.”