Most Americans' political activity consists of complaining about elected officials and the policies that result. In the most stellar years, our election-day turnout barely reaches 60 percent.
For a society whose foundation is freedom we do a dismal job of taking advantage of our freedom to think, act and speak openly about politics. Okay, that's largely because we take that freedom for grantedùanother disappointing American trait.
When Americans do vote, they know embarrassing little about the candidate or the issues on the ballot. That reality often works against the pork industry, and it could again this year.
Florida voters will consider an initiative on the state's November ballot to ban the use of gestation-sow crates, in fact to make them unconstitutional. On the surface, you wouldn't expect a single ballot vote in a state ranked 30th in pork production to have much impact on the U.S. pork industry. However, if successful, the initiative won't stop at Florida's borders. It will quickly spread to other states. Oregon may present a similar proposal this fall.
If you haven't been active on the political scene in the past, you need to change that philosophy. The government has always played a role in your business lives, and it certainly has increased in recent years. With today's business, social and global climates you can expect it to intensify.
This year's election, while not a Presidential one, in some ways is more important to your business. That's because voters will select governors, state legislators, U.S. Senators and House representatives. Then, there are any number of local officials, including county boards who will be named. Those are the real policy makers that influence your daily lives – and your business.
There is much you can do, not the least of which is to get to know the candidates and their positions on issues. A phone call, a letter, a visit to your representatives keeps you in touch. That person should eventually get to know who you are and what you do. Not comfortable with making those kinds of contacts? The activists are.
If you're still not convinced of what's at stake, take a look at some issues awaiting Congress' return from the August recess.
- The U.S. House and Senate each have bills to limit or end antibiotic use in livestock production. While these bills might not pass, they won't be the last versions presented.
- Homeland security is still evolving, and the outcome will depend on the House and Senate, not just the President's wishes. As part of the food system – and a largely vulnerable system – you will be affected.
- Environmental regulations – the rules for confined animal-feeding operations are due in January, but environmental actions at the local, state and federal levels will continue.
- The movement to ban packer ownership of livestock is still alive and kick'n.
- The Farm Bill passed, but the details are still unfolding, money is still being allocated and rules are still being written.
- Each day food-auditing and traceability programs move closer to becoming an on-farm reality. USDA will at least have its fingers in this pie.
- Trade – The U.S. pork industry is export-dependent. President Bush received Trade Promotion Authority, which is good news as it makes the United States a more appealing trade partner. Still, when it comes to trade, there is plenty of politics to go around.
The list certainly could run on.
It does matter who gets elected, and it does matter what you say and do. You need to be informed and active not just during an election year, but all year every year.
Also this fall, NPPC is rolling out its Producer-Consent Program. This is a voluntary funding program that depends on your participation.
NPPC is a critical link to your business' future because it is the only pork-industry representative that you have in Washington, D.C. Your state pork association fills that same role at home. In both cases, they rely on voluntary contributions to fund your representation. No checkoff dollars can go toward legislative and regulatory activities. That is why a nickel here and a dime there eventually adds up to real money.
Producer-Consent money is real money that you need to put to work for your business.