I’ve been at the Weston A. Price Foundation annual conference the last couple days, and yesterday participated on a panel about the legal issues around the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and raw milk (more on the latter in an upcoming post).
One of the presenters was Judith McGeary (pictured at right), executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and a vocal opponent of NAIS. She made the point that a number of people made in the comments following my previous posting–that lobbying legislators could be more fruitful than ever as a new administration launches in Washington and in state capitals around the country. Many decisions around NAIS and raw milk are being made at the state level, she noted, and she provided a tutorial on how to influence legislators on food-related issues.
Her thesis: the more personal you can get with legislators, the better. Moreover, it’s easier to influence legislators at the state level than in Washington. And related, the more people who contact legislators, the better. She provided a preferred list of citizen lobbying actions, starting with the least effective, and working up in effectiveness:
— A form letter
— A personal email
— A phone call
— A personal meeting
This last is the best because, “They remember it more than they could ever remember a letter.”
Even if you don’t get in to see the legislators, meeting with staffers is “very important,” since they tell legislators what to do on important issues.
Even more important is to get your friends and neighbors to make calls and seek meetings. “25 phone calls can make a difference in getting a piece of legislation passed,” she said.
Once you get a meeting with a legislator, don’t be confrontational. “Reach out and seek common ground,” she said. “If a legislator is conservative, I talk about privacy and the infringement on personal liberties (from NAIS). It’s give and take. I give them facts.”
More on the Weston A Price Foundation Wise Traditions 2008 conference, going on now through Monday. It’s being held in San Francisco, and there are about 1,200 people attending.
It’s been a lot of fun. First and most important, not surprisingly, there is great food. Though it’s being held at the Hyatt Regency near the airport, this is definitely not hotel-conference-type food. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund hosts oatmeal breakfasts with wonderful granolas, organic oranges and apples and, of course, all the raw milk you can drink (care of Organic Pastures Dairy Co.) Lunch and dinner are even better, with lots of great veggies and fresh meats and fermented salads (sorry if I’m running on).
I love the exhibits as well, made up mostly of food providers–producers of meats, seafood, cheeses, and assorted fermented products.One of the more interesting is from a maker of nutritional supplements that is offering taste-testing of its new line of cod liver oil flavors. I definitely didn’t care for the chocolate, fruit, or cinammon flavors. I think cod liver oil is destined to not be a fun culinary experience.