By: Michael Green, Senior Manager, Advocacy & Local Policy, Food Marketing Institute

Grassroots IssuesLawmaking – whether by city councils, state legislatures or the U.S. congress – has a significant impact on businesses, customers and employees. Therefore, it is essential to engage with your elected officials at all levels of government. 

It sounds so simple, but there really is nothing more powerful than the voices of constituents sharing their stories with legislators. The data is clear. A whopping 92 percent of Congressional staff have said that "individualized email messages" from constituents would have at least some influence on an undecided lawmaker. Nearly 80 percent agree that personal stories from constituents related to an issue are helpful in shaping congressional opinion.

To help the food retail industry share its story, recently, FMI launched a new, easy to use grassroots advocacy platform. From our Capitol Hill perspective, the new FMI Advocacy Center keeps us connected with our members of Congress, and makes sure we stay engaged with them on important issues. The platform is currently promoting six grassroots efforts on confidential business data, pharmacy DIR fees, USMCA, the truck driver shortage, security in payments and fixing the “retail glitch.” Visit the FMI Advocacy Center to learn more about any of these issues and to contact your member of Congress directly. 

Because policymaking occurs not just in Washington, D.C., but in state capitols, cities and counties across the country, the food retail industry must have the capacity to engage across the country. And FMI could not do that alone. Roughly 100 state and regional trade organizations representing food and retail provide our industry’s “boots on the ground” at the state and local level. These state associations are actively lobbying at their respective state capitols. When called upon, FMI works to provide resources and support to the state associations. This support includes access to our advocacy technology to create grassroots platforms tailored to specific state legislatures.  

Fellow State Associations have shared their success with the platform: 

Michelle Kussow, vice president government affairs, Wisconsin Grocers Association, said:“Using the advocacy platform was critical to our success on efforts to repeal the personal property tax. We were able to react immediately when needed, for example the Senate Majority Leader commented publicly that he did not feel momentum on the personal property tax. Within 24 hours we had generated more than 350 emails into his office and other key Senate offices. In addition, the advocacy platform was helpful from our members perspective to help them get involved and give them a quick and easy way to make contact with their legislators. In the end, the advocacy platform was key to our success on this issue leading to a $75 million exemption in the personal property tax.” 

Mike Karbo, vice president of government affairs, Minnesota Grocers Association said: “Connecting members to their local elected officials is a key component in achieving collective legislative success for the food industry.  FMI’s new grassroots services made engagement easy for our members and allowed them to send over 3,000 emails to assist in defeating egregious legislation this year.” 

Now, when the U.S. Congress is in legislative recess and most state legislatures have adjourned for the year, is the perfect opportunity to invite legislators on a store tour, share your story, and educate lawmakers about the challenges and opportunities we face as sellers of food, as business leaders and as employers of a dedicated and unique workforce.