It’s going to be a long road to November.

In a few short weeks, presidential politics will really start with political party conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland. I’m sure that by Election Day, we’ll grow tired of the commercials, negative campaigns and endless news cycle (if we aren’t sick of it already).

But that doesn’t mean that rural America can skip this or any other election.

It’s been four years since we last elected a president, and in this cycle we will get a new slate. We will usher in a new commander in chief and with him or her a different administration with its own views and outlook for the future of the country.

That vision for the future does trickle down to your farm and mine.

The man or woman who will lead this country for the next four (or more) years can shape a future that has a direct impact on the way you and I do business.

Each representative in Congress and one-third of the seats in the U.S. Senate are up for election this year. As we look to the issues facing our nation, we know it’s critical to have effective leaders in Congress who understand the needs of rural America and grasp how crucial agriculture is to the nation’s economy.

In my own state, all seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and half of the state Senate seats are up for election. We only need to look at Pennsylvania’s budget impasse that dragged on for nine grueling months, nearly crippling Penn State’s Extension service, to know how crucial local representation is to our issues.

I know as well as anyone that there will be noise when it comes to our federal and state elections this year.

But I encourage all of you to filter out the attack ads and study the candidates. Visit their websites and read their stance on the issues.

When you have measured the candidates, show them your support by voting.

This is not the year to sit the election out. The stakes are too great. In 2016, we need the voice of rural America to be heard loud and clear.

As I look at the men and women of agriculture, the words that continue to come to mind are “common sense.” Farmers, I believe, have a measure of practicality. In years when commodity prices dip, or our costs rise too high, we make adjustments to our budgets, postpone purchases and tighten our belts. And I think many of us ask the question: “Why doesn’t our government operate the same way?”

I’m encouraged, again and again, to see the men and women of agriculture bring their “common sense” attitude to local government. I can think of no better way for farmers to have their voices heard than to actually serve on a school board or a local township board of supervisors.

But it doesn’t have to stop there.

We need the voice of farmers in the halls of our state legislatures and in Washington, D.C.

Whether it’s through your vote and your support for a candidate, or by actually running for office, let’s make sure agriculture is heard loud and clear.


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