Each legislative session, family farmers, ranchers and consumers from around Oregon gathered at the capitol as citizen lobbyists to address the state food and agriculture policy affecting us.

Why? There is a strong lobby for commodity agriculture and agribusiness, but the issues facing family agriculture, local food producers and small-scale agriculture are often different.  If our legislators in Salem are going to support policies, rules and programs that bolster small-scale, local and family agriculture, they need to hear from YOU. Whether it is standing on the capitol steps, sending an email, mailing a letter or picking up the phone, your contact with YOUR legislators is critical.

One of the most invigorating and powerful ways you can affect Oregon’s food and agriculture policy is attending Family Farm & Ranch Rally Day.  This event is held each odd year at the beginning of the legislative session. (Remember, Oregon has a citizen legislature that only meets in odd years except for a month-long budget session in even years.)

Family Farm & Ranch Rally day brings together producers and eaters in Salem for citizen lobbying training, meetings with legislators and a rally on the capitol steps.  We even set up a Farmers Market in the capitol galleria! All of this is to build support for sustainable, family agriculture for current and future generations. Citizens lobby legislators on specific legislation and talk to them about barriers and opportunities for agriculture and food production.

In 2011 five ORA members made the 14-hour round trip for the first Family Farm & Ranch Rally Day. They to talked to legislators, the state treasurer and even the head of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Members were surprised about the reception they received at the capitol. Everyone showed extreme appreciation for the distance they had traveled. Members felt that their meetings made a huge impact on how legislators voted and how they thought.

Here are a few testimonials from some of our citizen lobbyists:

As the daughter of a third-generation Oregon farmer, I have always tried to help out where I could; but as a businesswoman working in Portland, that can sometimes be hard to do. When I heard about the opportunity to attend Oregon’s Family Farm & Ranch Rally Day at the state capitol, I felt like I could finally do something worthwhile. That day in Salem I was able to learn more about the legislative process and what it could mean for farms like my father’s. With the never-ending tasks at home, he hardly has time to read about what his representatives are doing in Salem, let alone contact them. I was able to talk about the troubles our farms are facing and discuss real solutions that could help. Lobby day gave me the chance to put a voting face that is the product of Oregon family farms in front of lawmakers. I love that I grew up working on our farm and I want to ensure that people like my Dad can continue making a living doing what they love.
— Katie Allen
Lobby day was a great experience for me because I was able to help effect a positive change on an agricultural topic that I was passionate about: poultry processing. It was also a great opportunity to meet people from across the state that share my same passion and interests.
— Cody Darst
Lobby day 2011 was a very memorable experience for me. I had ready about my representatives, but I don’t think I had ever met either of them, or even seen them speak. The opportunity to sit down with legislators really helped me feel connected to the political system. I felt like everyone we met with listened respectfully and was willing to engage in a conversation with us. Even on issues that we disagreed on, I felt like the policy makers were respectful and didn’t grill us or make us feel uncomfortable. As part of lobby day, there were four specific issues that we were encouraged to talk to our representatives about. If we wanted to talk to them about other things, that was fine too. But we were given the background information about the four key campaigns, as well as talking points, and time to practice our “pitch” during the citizen lobby training at rally day. I think having the information on hand and practicing it helped me feel powerful, like these people are listening to us, as a group we can make a difference. It was also fun! We had great company and great conversation which made the car trip go by quickly.
— Teresa Roark