Working In DC Is Less Like The West Wing, More Like Veep
There’s drama and comedy in politics says ARA’s Hunter Carpenter.
Carpenter has been on the policy team at ARA for nine years, and currently works as Senior Director of Public Policy. He’s been advocating for the ag retail industry, and says while his focus is on building relationships, it’s also part of the job to witness some of the theatrics, for example during committee hearings.
“It’s important for ag retailers to know they have a voice in Washington,” he says. “Whether you're a global company, a farmer Co-Op, or an independent retailer that's been operated by the same family for generations–all shapes and sizes of ag retailers can call on us anytime with issues that they have. They can push to have our staff prioritize issues–big and small. We're there for them.”
He says ag retailers being members of ARA is increasing important as single topic interest groups are outspending the agriculture industry by 15x to 20x.
“We’ve got to do what we can to amplify our message. The ag industry as a whole has a loud voice in Washington,” he says. “The big takeaway is that we can't get complacent. We need members and their employees and customers to reach out to lawmakers and regulators to put a constituent face our industry.”
A powerful tool in advocating for ag retail is putting a face to the issues the industry encounters.
“Our association does a good job of getting our message to stakeholders, but having folks back home share their thoughts magnifies our ability to make an impact,” Carpenter highlights. “Particularly with legislators, they're much more concerned with the opinions of people that can vote for them. So anything we can do to get folks back in the states to reach out to their members of Congress to put a constituent face on our messaging, really helps.”
Carpenter is encouraged by the bipartisan efforts he sees going on in the capitol.
“The one thing that surprises friends and family I've talked to back home is the amount of bipartisanship that actually goes on in Washington DC. I think people are plugged into the 24 hour news cycle and they see a lot of infighting and they think politics is this hyper-partisan arena. That's not necessarily the case, particularly on agricultural issues. You have to have buy-in from both sides of the aisle to get anything done here and as it pertains to ag we're fortunate that both Democrats and Republicans realize that everyone needs to eat, everyone needs clothes and everyone needs fuel and so that certainly helps with getting our message across,” Carpenter says.