Election Day is right around the corner (November 3, 2020!), and early voting and mail in ballots are already available across the country. If we are going to build a brighter, more just future for U.S. agriculture, we need to make sure young farmers’ and ranchers’ voices are heard this election season!
How can you ensure that your vision for the future of farming becomes a reality?
1. Ask your candidates questions
Candidates listen when farmers and ranchers speak up. Take advantage of this at local in-person or virtual town halls. No events in your area? Feel free to contact candidates directly via email, as long as you reach out to all candidates running. Let us know how it goes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are a few sample questions to ask your candidates:
- In the next five years, nearly 100 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. Do you have policy proposals that would make this land accessible and affordable to BIPOC farmers and young farmers?
- As farmers and ranchers, we are the backbone of ensuring food security in our area. How will you ensure that BIPOC farmers and young farmers are adequately supported through COVID-19?
- COVID-19 has highlighted the need for improved pathways from farmers and ranchers producing healthy food to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. How will you support local food systems and address food insecurity?
- Farming is a dangerous and physically strenuous job. For young farmers, many of whom are in the early years of starting and growing their farm businesses and their families, a lack of affordable health insurance puts them, their families, and their businesses at significant risk. What are your policy proposals for making health care available and affordable?
- We have been suffering from repeated [floods, hurricanes, fires, drought, X disease/pest] and other climate change impacts. As farmers/ranchers, we can mitigate this issue through healthy soil and resilient agricultural practices. On my farm, I [insert example of resilient practice]. Do you support compensating farmers for their ecosystem services?
- BIPOC farmers have faced disproportionate rates of land loss, and the drop in numbers of their farms over the last century has been attributed in part to decades of discriminatory practices by the USDA, which the department itself has been forced to admit and begin to address. How will you address racial inequities in agriculture?
- How will you hold USDA, our State Department of Agriculture, and our FSA offices accountable for reducing racial disparities and for abiding by and strengthening non-discrimination policies?
Election Year Do’s and Don’ts!
We want you to feel empowered to speak to and about candidates. Here are some simple rules to follow:
- As an individual farmer and rancher and also as a business owner you should feel free to express a preference for a candidate and your opinions on specific agriculture-related issues.
For example: “I have been farming for 2 years. I work hard everyday to regenerate our soils and feed our community. My experience leads me to support Mary Bee for Senate because I know they will support the next generation of farmers,” and “Fun Flower Farms support Mary Bee for Senate. Mary Bee will ensure that Fun Flowers has affordable and long-term access to land so we can continue to provide gorgeous bouquets to our community’s milestone celebrations”.
- Because chapter activities are an extension of the National Young Farmers Coalition, and we are a not for profit organization (501(c)3) lacking the ability to endorse candidates, your chapter cannot endorse a candidate. To avoid any activities that may appear as an endorsement, it is best to represent your farm or yourself as an individual when engaging candidates or attending political events, rather than your Young Farmers chapter.
For example: You should not say, “As a Young Farmers member I endorse Mary Bee” or “Our state’s Young Farmers chapter endorsed Mary Bee.” When you email candidates to educate them about young farmers issues, you can say that you are a Young Farmers member or part of a Young Farmers chapter, as long as you email all of the candidates running. Again, the general public trusts farmers’ opinions and experiences, you should feel empowered to speak as yourself!
Resources: Chapters, don’t forget to check out our Chapter Election Year Guide.
- Have strong partisan views? Use disclaimers. It is OK to mention that you are a Young Farmers member, but you should follow that with an acknowledgement that you are at an event or writing in your personal capacity, expressing your individual views.
For example: “My name is Farmer Sue. I farm in the Methow Valley of Washington State, I am a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition and an active volunteer with our local chapter, but my views do not reflect those of organizations that I am affiliated with. I am here today in my personal capacity, representing my own individual views. I believe that candidate Addison will be absolutely horrible for our state because they don’t care about farmers.”
If you have any questions or doubts about these rules please don’t hesitate to reach out to (email@example.com).
2. Engage the candidates on social media
Your chapter should not engage with candidates on social media, as it is too risky that this engagement could look like an endorsement. However, on your individual or business social media accounts, you can express views and tag your candidates.
The campaigns are carefully watching Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you share a position with the candidate online, the campaign will take note. Bring your friends into the conversation. Candidates will pay attention to the positions they hear the loudest and most often. So bring other constituents with you to amplify your impact. In these posts you may mention your affiliation with the National Young Farmers Coalition, so long as you add a disclaimer that your viewpoints are your own.
3. Register and make a plan to vote!
Voting isn’t the only way to make your voice heard, but it is a crucial step in engaging in the policy process–a step that should be easy and convenient but that will be unnecessarily difficult for many this year. Due to the pandemic, a majority of Americans will vote by mail. We need to support our friends and loved ones to make sure that they can get their voice heard despite the efforts of some government leaders to suppress the vote. The Young Farmer Voter Hub provides an easy-to-use platform where you can get registered and make a plan to vote. Please support your community in making sure they are registered, know how to vote, and that they vote on time by sharing this link!
Research tells us that if you make a plan to vote, you are most likely to do it. So gather information on how to vote in your state as early as possible. Use the handy Young Farmer Voter Hub to check your registration status, make a plan to vote, and learn about the candidates.
4. Election Protection Volunteering
Unfortunately, voting isn’t equally accessible everywhere, and it certainly isn’t equitable. With organizations like Common Cause and Fair Fight, you can get training and support to help your community navigate the election process and take actions like remotely monitoring polling places, driving between polling places, monitoring social media for voters with problems, proactively contacting voters, and much more. Another way to protect elections is to volunteer at the polls–you can find more information about that here.
Reflections and voter resources from Young Farmers BIPOC staff
|As a BIPOC person and an advocate, I have contradictory and honestly exhausting feelings about election years. I feel privileged to be able to vote. I feel the necessity to vote. I feel the urgency to try once again to do my small part in finally affecting the changes that my people need so badly. At the same time, I feel the exhaustion of what, on the worst days, feels like wasted efforts to claim space in a country that doesn’t care. If this resonates with you, here are some reflections, self-care, and resistance resources that our BIPOC staff are finding useful in this time. Please feel free to get in touch and share the resources that have helped you the most, so I can share them broadly here.
– Katherine Un, Organizing and Advocacy Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have recently embraced the idea that caring for my emotional/physical health as a Brown and Queer man is a radical act. Prioritizing your wellbeing is a true expression of resistance when living in a country that was built to uphold white supremacy and protect white property. I find solace outdoors, in the mountains, and in my garden. I believe that voting in a major election is our collective duty, but that it is also one small part in ensuring that we are protected, that the lands and bodies of Indigenous peoples are protected, and that Black lives are protected. Our duty extends beyond the ballot box, and we have a responsibility to care for ourselves while lifting up our communities. For resources, consider following and contributing to Rachel Elizabeth Cargle.
–Bilal Sarwari, Membership Manager:
Elections can’t be things that happen to us and without us. I believe that as New American and immigrants our vote has the power to shape our communities. We should engage first by voting, second by encouraging people to vote, and third by running for office and elected office. This system was not created for us, but we must be players to challenge it and reform it. My favorite resources are from New American Leaders. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@newamericanld) and check out this “No Regrets Election Guide.”
–Vanessa García Polanco, Federal Policy Associate
I’m young. I’m a woman. I’m Black. I’m queer. So I cherish the reality that my first vote was for President Obama’s second term, despite Black men waiting until the 1870s to be considered legal voters, and Black women until the 1920s. Yet in 2020, nearly a century later, I don’t feel like my vote counts. Even though (once again) my basic rights are really the ones up for election. I feel like the majority is the only thing that matters. And the majority of people in this country aren’t facing that reality. Regardless of the weight this forces me to carry when I even think about voting, I know I have to vote. Even if it changes nothing for me, I’m still paving the way for generations to come. And giving up on them is never going to be the answer. For prompts, tactics, and inspiration on how to resist perpetuating ancestral trauma and promote healing within myself and my lineage, I try and keep up with @dr.marielbuque on Instagram.
-Michelle A. T. Hughes, Equity and Organizational Change Manager