Establishing and Maintaining Congressional
Relationships: Tips for Grant Recipients & Associates
Why? By communicating
with your elected officials and their staff,
you can communicate the importance of agricultural
research, education, and extension programs
to those who determine the program's future.
Connecting with your Congressional Representatives
and Senators also affords you opportunities
- Make members of Congress aware that
agricultural research, education, and
extension are real by showing them how
they are being practiced in their districts.
- Showcase how their investments in agricultural
research, education, and extension contribute
to their district or state.
- Outline in lay terms what you do; how
agricultural research, education, and
extension help you; and how your work
benefits the community.
How? There are various
ways to contact your Congressional Representatives,
but written invitations are probably the
most effective. Write a letter inviting
your Senators and Representatives (your
Congressional delegation) plus their staff
to meet with you or to tour your farm,
business, university, or organization's
research site for a brief presentation.
You can find your House and Senate delegations
online. You can send your letter to either
the local or Washington office. You can
mail your letter to your Senator's or Representative's
local office, but fax it to the Washington,
DC, office to ensure timely delivery.
A cautionary note: If you work for a
university or other institution, check
for any recommended procedures before starting
this process. At many institutions, a legislative
affairs contact will want to work with
you on your Congressional outreach.
Members of Congress always seek events
to attend in their districts. Most Senators
and Representatives return to their state
or district offices during holidays and
recesses, so check the House and Senate
calendars online so you can suggest a reasonable
date for an activity. Develop a relationship
with the local office staffers, who will
likely be very receptive to your overtures.
Keep in mind that they want to send their
Senator or Representative out into the
Here are some potential ways to connect:
- Schedule a meeting at your farm, business,
university, or organization's research
site. In your invitation, make the proposed
visit sound interesting and informational,
focusing on your good work and the good
work of the overall program. Then, take
them on a tour and brief them about your
activities. Consider inviting interested
neighbors, such as farmers, representatives
from local agricultural organizations,
and other grant recipients. If you do,
mention in your Congressional invitation
that other constituents will be there.
Remember to ask other invitees to encourage
the member(s) of Congress to accept your
- Schedule an event at your farm, business,
university, or organization. Invite members
of Congress and Congressional staff.
Consider partnering with other agricultural
groups, such as your Farm Bureau chapter,
or a professional agricultural society.
Plan something big enough to attract
a critical mass, including the media.
Write a press release and send one to
the Congressional representative's press
- Don't forget important post-event correspondence.
Write a thank-you note to your Congressional
representative. Also write a letter to
the editor of your local news-paper(s)
describing the event and thanking your
Congressional representative for his/her
- Get acquainted with newly elected officials
at town hall meetings, civic organization
meetings, etc. Make a particular effort
to meet the legislative assistant for
- Schedule an in-office meeting. Most
members of Congress use recess periods
and weekends at home to meet with constituents
in their local offices. Schedule an appointment
to meet locally. If you travel to Washington,
DC, call the Washington office beforehand
and make an appointment. You may meet
with a legislative aide, but that's all
right. A “legislative assistant” is
considered a senior staffer. You can
encourage the staffer to use you as a
resource for agricultural issues.