No, I'm not going to tell you how to vote in the upcoming fall elections. I'm not arrogant or foolish enough for that. But I do know that agriculturalists, like other Americans, have a big stake in what happens at the local, state and national levels. Like other Americans, we need to vote.
Already there's a growing clamor for all eligible Americans to exercise their right to vote. That's fine; we're so fortunate to have that right. Unfortunately, there's far less attention on the accompanying responsibility to vote based on careful, well-informed decisions.
Too many Americans, it seems to me, fail to do that. Some voters on the right are guided almost exclusively by what they see on Fox News and read in posts by their Facebook buddies. Some voters on the left are guided almost exclusively by what they see on MSNBC and read in posts by their Facebook buddies. There's scant, if any, interest in trying to keep an open mind and tapping diverse sources of information. I've written about it before: the need to avoid "living in the echo chamber," or basing decisions solely on what like-minded people say.
Agriculturalists have another potential trap to avoid. Endorsements, either public or behind-the-scenes, from commodity groups and general farm organizations can heavily influence which candidates a voter supports. That's understandable; these entities usually have staffers who have studied candidates' views and can make knowledgeable assumptions about how a candidate would behave on key ag issues if elected or reelected.
Agriculture is hardly unique in this. No doubt many voters involved in, say, the mining or computer industry put a lot of stock in what their professional organizations recommend. And that's OK, whatever industry you're in. Voters should consider how their industry will be affected if a candidate is elected.
But don't make that your only criteria. Sure, candidates' stance on key ag issues is important. But so are their personalities, experience, abilities and views on other issues. Taking all those things into consideration is proper and necessary.
This is obvious to everyone involved in area ag, but I'll mention it for the benefit of readers who aren't: People in ag often have differences, ranging from minor to massive, on issues. They have varying ideas of what politicians should do and consequently come to varying conclusions on the ballot.
One example: Some in U.S. agriculture believe strongly in climate change, with human activity the primary cause. Others in ag believe just as strongly that human activity has little or nothing to do with changing climate. Which side of the fence you're on will almost certainly will influence who you vote for.
And, of course, the Farmers Union and the Farm Bureau, the nation's two largest general farm organizations, have some different views on issues such as the proper level of government involvement in the marketplace. That frequently leads to their respective members voting for different candidates.
Again, decide for yourself who deserves your votes this fall. But make sure your votes reflect information from many sources. Make certain they're based on careful thought on how a candidate, if elected, would affect your ag business, family, community, state and country.
I'd like to think that most ag voters are doing that already. And I'm realistic enough to know that those who aren't most likely won't be influenced by anything they read here.
Even so, I'll say it again. Yes, of course, vote this fall. More importantly, vote responsibly.