Advocacy, what does this word really mean?
For years I have been telling friends, family, and acquaintances that when I grow up and have a “real job” I want to be an advocate for agriculture (this is how I ended up with ag comm as my major). About how I want to share the story of what my mom and dad do everyday on our farm. How hardworking, determined, and kind-hearted they both are. Of all the farmers in our county who would help each other out at the drop of a hat.
I want to give farmers, like my parents, a voice with the consumers, to show that they use the products and practices on their fields because they feel they are the most effective and productive ways to feed their families and other’s families, especially within the dairy industry.
In ag comm class we went over a list of what it truly means to be an advocate. This list put it all into perspective for me, I hope it does the same for you.
1.Offers a collective voice
Advocates need to find a collective voice for the cause that they are passionate for. If multiple advocacy groups for the same cause push different facts for an issue, there is no consistency and publics will find material scattered and unbelievable.
Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau exemplify this aspect. Each county in Illinois has a Farm Bureau office and their own county board. The board is elected from local farmers and represents what that area wants at the state level. This allows that county and state to have a uniform voice for their Farm Bureau members.
2.Supports those who can’t be their own advocate
To be an advocate means to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To me this means speaking for my dairy cows. Although I can’t talk to my cows, I believe I can tell when they are satisfied.
Cows are unable to speak up to PETA activists in California, who want to restrict water resources to dairy farms due to the drought. Theses activists insist on a ban of all meat and dairy consumption in California. What would happen to all of the cattle residing in the state?
3.Creates accountability for people and organizations in power
Advocacy groups are building blocks for higher organizations and officials. They lay the ground work for others to
Groups such as Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Soybean Association are pathways for Illinois politicians to find information about the agriculture industry in our state. These advocacy groups compile information and help farmers to have a collective voice. Credibility of the two groups aids politicians in making decisions for the state, such as supporting the 2014 Farm Bill.
4.Protects vulnerable populations
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American farmer is 57 years old. A 57 year old male doesn’t sound like a vulnerable population.
To me they very well can be.
I see my father being trampled on by others who aren’t farmers. They perceive him as a farmer with little education, when in fact he is quite intelligent and talented in his field.
Allowing those who aren’t fond of public speaking to ask for assistance in sharing their story is advocacy. Most farmers don’t have a scientist on the farm to compute data so they can dispute claims from the public about GMO usage or other common complaints. Having a combined group to support the farmers allows for services that will make a larger impact in righting these false claims and sharing informational data.
Advocacy is NO small task. Bringing a voice to vulnerable populations is a challenge. Backlash from opposing groups is almost always present. I’m ready for the fight for agriculture, how about you?