Washington Wheat Leaders Take A Bold Step
In late October 2021, Jim Jesernig, former Washington State Director of Agriculture, legislator, retired lobbyist and friend, got in touch and asked, “Why is agriculture getting killed politically?” Jim was right—we’ve been kicked around and were getting frustrated about it. Redistricting has led to fewer ‘swing’ districts, half of legislators now from King County—more urban members, unfamiliar and sometimes unfriendly to rural and agricultural issues. “With the political difficulties facing the wheat industry right now,” Jim wrote, “a few of us have talked about retooling the wheat industry’s level of political activity.”
Jim’s prodding and encouragement lit a spark. Soon we had a PAC board, led by Ryan Poe as chair, Ben Adams as treasurer, Leslie Druffel as board administrator, board members Marci Green, Brad Isaak, Craig Kincaid, Pat McConnell, and Alex McGregor as vice-chair. With lots of work by board members and other friends calling friends—Ben Barstow, Skip Mead, Brit Ausman and many others come to mind, by February of last year we met our preliminary goal of 20 farmers contributing $2,500 each. We pooled more money in 66 days than what had been gathered in the previous 10 years combined.
Jesernig wrote enthusiastically that “The Wheaties willingness to step up their campaign has had a big impact beyond just wheat. At a meeting Diana Carlen, our wheat lobbyist, set up with the Ag Lobby, there seemed to be a lot of interest in ag pulling together to become a force multiplier in campaigns by coordinating all of the major ag efforts.” “Be part of your own future,” as he put it, “instead of letting folks unfamiliar about agriculture determine it for you.”
Return on Investment
Together we agreed as PAC director Marci Green put it, that “we have to look at the PAC as a long-term investment.” Brad Isaak stressed the need to build long-term relationships and to ‘stay the course.’ Last year was all about developing new relationships, helping friends out so they can advance, and nudging the majority into a less hostile place. Here’s a sense of how we did in our inaugural year, from Diana Carlen:
- Almost all incumbents Wheat PAC supported won.
- Took some risks, appreciated by Republican leaders; Supported some ag friendly Democrats; gave to each caucus.
- Made significant investments—primary and general—to ag friendly candidates—critical to relationship building. Helped some with safe seats—they get credit in their caucus—and can take on more important roles in the future.
Jim Jesernig was impressed: “What you’ve done in one year is an amazing success.” Few stunning victories in the legislature but much more civil, sometimes even friendly, relationships. PAC director Pat McConnell stated: “The sharks are circling 24/7/365 and we need to have a presence in Olympia to keep watch, sound warnings, nurture relationships, and poke a shark in the nose occasionally. I know it is hard to know who heard our message and what may come from the efforts down the road. But if we stop, our fate is certain.”
Here is something from the heart we’ve learned—Wheat is working hard with other ag groups and together our organizations have been making a team effort. Diana Carlen, and WAWG Executive Director Michelle Hennings are impressive in action and go all out for farm families. Even when we don’t win right away we build alliances that make us stronger for the long haul.
Playing the Long Game
Together we’ve built a strong foundation, one that will continue to make us stronger for the long haul. We need to keep moving forward. Pulling together we all helped set the example last year. Together we can do it again. “You’ve got to keep the crop fertilized and sustained,” as our friend Jim suggests. With potatoes, food processors, tree fruit, feeders and others pulling together, we have a lot of clout. Brad Isaak reminds us to keep building relationships with the other side—in an ever more urban state we need to tell our story and build relationships far from our farm fields.
We are challenged on so many fronts in our legislature.
“I (Ryan), think the PAC gives our lobbyist another tool in the toolbox. When I look at the inputs on the farm, the PAC contribution isn’t even a drop in the bucket especially when policies legislators are writing can have a major impact on my farm’s bottom line.”
“I (Alex) think of the long record of success wheat growers have had in Olympia. Pitching in together we can help open some doors so the legislators of today and tomorrow can get to know us and understand why farm families are so important to our state’s future.”
We hope you will support the Wheat PAC. Together, we will win the day. We should accept nothing less. We will be looking to meet again in mid- to late-May to hear from WAWG leaders from here in wheat country and from Olympia and to review goals for 2023 and 2024.
With appreciation and best personal regards,
Ryan Poe, Chairman & Alex McGregor, Vice Chair
Political advocacy is something many of us think we can never get involved in; the Washington Wheat PAC is out to change that.
The Washington Wheat PAC is a non-partisan political action committee that is dedicated to supporting ag-friendly candidates.
The Washington Wheat PAC pledges to promote and support elected officials from all parts of the state that positively influence agriculture and specifically, wheat farming practices of Washington.
Please join our efforts by financially supporting the Washington Wheat PAC. Your contribution will strengthen the network of elected officials who understand the wheat industry’s goals and objectives by fighting for what is critical to the livelihood of our members.