Farmers and others in rural parts of the country occasionally throw open their gates and welcome tours of legislators and other community leaders.
It provides them with an opportunity to tell their stories to the people who, directly or indirectly, impact their livelihoods.
For community leaders, tours provide an opportunity to listen and learn.
Two recent tours illustrate how legislators especially can benefit from such tours.
One was near Caldwell, Idaho, where participants arrived with open minds and a heaping helping of curiosity.
“A lot of folks on the tour are not familiar with the vast types of agricultural products we grow,” state Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, told our reporter, Brad Carlson. “It broadens your own perspective on ag.”
They toured an onion-processing plant, a fruit processing and packaging facility, a seed developer and a vineyard.
Participants and tour sponsors appeared to be equally enthusiastic. It also showed the importance Idaho leaders attach to agriculture.
Another tour held last summer in Western Washington might as well have been on a different planet.
Organized by the Lewis County Farm Bureau, the tour included a multi-generation dairy farm, an apiary, Christmas tree farm and a lavender farm.
Every Western Washington legislator was invited on the tour. Considering that 75% of the 147-member legislature is from Western Washington, one would have thought the tour would require several buses.
The five legislators who did sign up could have been accommodated in a minivan.
At each farm, the legislators were told how state government regulations hinder them.
One legislator who did participate in the tour was Sen. Rebecca Saldana, a Seattle Democrat who has made a big impression in Olympia during the past two sessions by targeting agriculture.
In one instance, she offered a bill that would have impaired the use of pesticides by requiring a four-day notice before spraying.
Another bill would have required farmers to tell retailers about any employment violations, such as slavery.
The bills managed to set an informal record in the Capitol.
“I’ve been told by many people they are the worst bills in 33 years,” Saldana told our reporter, Don Jenkins.
When she asked dairy farmer Ross McMahan what the legislature could do for him, he responded, “I don’t feel as policymakers you can do anything. The marketplace is bigger than all of us.”
That is a true statement. What legislators need to know is almost every new law they pass regulating farming costs more money — and may not accomplish anything. Many times, the new laws are the problem, not the solution.
Saldana is to be commended for joining the tour. Hopefully, she learned something about agriculture and the impact the legislature has on farmers.
We hope more Washington legislators get out of Seattle and learn about farming.
They all need to listen and learn before they start legislating.