Vox populorum, est vox Dei is a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” This phrase, found on the wall of the House of Representatives Chambers at the Capitol, empowered MARL Class IX, and all Minnesotans, to share our voices on issues facing agriculture and rural areas with elected state leaders.
To prepare us for sharing our “voice,” Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President and MARL alum Kevin Paap and Bruce Miller, Minnesota Farmers Union director of membership, shared their expert guidance on impacting change in St. Paul and the legislature. We learned legislators want to hear your story, rather than big picture numbers. Stories resonate. Make your story memorable, so legislators can repeat it to others. If a legislator can’t repeat your story back to someone else, they won’t support your issue(s). Stories persuade and are relatable. Kevin indicated that often it’s not what you know, but who knows you, when trying to influence change. Trust must be built. And, burn no bridges!
Agriculture and rural areas don’t have the political power they once did. As ambassadors for agriculture and rural issues, Class IX was encouraged to build alliances and educate urban stakeholders on why agriculture and rural issues are important to the whole state and its economy.
We were encouraged to warmly embrace social media. Legislators and news media read tweets and drive public policy. On the floor, elected officials use Facebook, Twitter and news feeds. Social media is an incredibly effective tool at getting information in front of legislators.
Minnesota Agri-Growth Council President Perry Aasness also offered his valuable perspective on lobbying to educate elected officials. Perry reiterated that legislators need to hear real stories from real people. He said, “This is a relationship business. Your word is your bond.” Be honest, factual, professional, and succinct. Keep your word…and don’t be a pest. He encouraged us to prepare and be ready to share your 30-second elevator speech at any moment.
At the Capitol, the class sat in on a Joint Minnesota House Ag Finance and Ag Policy Committees meeting which was a great learning experience. Pat O’Connor, Katie Schneider and Heidi Peterson did a terrific job sharing their stories and perspectives on MARL and its impact on them, as individuals. Next, we met with elected officials from each of our regions, giving us opportunity to share our stories.
Kevin Paap arranged for the class to meet with Lt. Governor Tina Smith in the beautiful Governor’s Reception Room in the Capitol. The Lt. Governor graciously shared her time and advised us to “never underestimate the power of sharing your story, your voice” with legislators.
Jasmine Brett Stringer Moore being interviewed about MARL for local TV.
Later in the day, we reviewed the agenda for our upcoming trip to Washington DC and met with our Emotional Intelligence coaching teams where we shared our individual action plans and goals to purposefully develop our emotional intelligence. We will continue these team check-ins throughout the remainder of our MARL journey, with the focus on becoming more effective leaders.
Wrapping up the day, Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer magazine and MARL Class VI alum, shared tips for writing compelling letters to the editor, an additional tool in our leadership toolbox to help raise awareness on critical issues facing agriculture and rural areas.
Class IX cohorts introduced themselves to the many MARL friends, alumni and supporters at the evening banquet. AURI Executive Director Shannon Schlecht spoke and U of M Professor Dr. Phil Pardey provided a keynote address focused on “The Shifting Global Structure of Agriculture and Investments in Agricultural Innovation.” Much food for thought.
Submitted by Lisa Gjersvik