I was standing in a crowded elevator at the Minnesota State Capitol last week when a man made eye contact with me and asked, “Where’s your dairy farm?”
    For a second, I wondered if I should know this man and how he knew I was a farmer.
    Then I remembered I had a button that said, “I’m a Dairy Farmer,” pinned to my cardigan.
    The buttons were part of Minnesota Milk’s Dairy Day at the Capitol.
    “My dairy farm is near Melrose,” I told the man.
    “How many cows do you milk?” he asked.
    “We milk 90 cows,” I replied.
    “So, you’re still small,” he commented.
    While I was thinking of an appropriate response to his statement, he asked his next question: “How can we help you?”
    I was speechless for a moment. After all, it is not very often a stranger offers to help a farmer.
    Then, I quickly replied with the request we had been sharing with legislators all day: “There are two bills in the House and Senate that would provide direct one-time financial support to dairy farmers. Passing them would send a strong message that dairy farming is important to Minnesota.”
    As quickly as the conversation started, it ended. The elevator doors opened, the man and his colleague stepped off.
    For all the times I have been part of an agricultural advocacy training or discussion about having an elevator speech, this was the first time I have ever used one. Sometimes you really do only have 20 seconds to share your message.
    I have no idea who the man was or what his role in Minnesota governance is, but the short exchange filled me with a burst of hope. Clearly, there are folks in St. Paul who are concerned about dairy farmers, and perhaps this man would become an advocate for our bills. At the very least, he was now aware of them. The more who know and understand, the more who vote in our favor.
    Several bills have been introduced this session that could impact dairy farmers, but during Dairy Day at the Capitol most of our focus was on two.
    The first bill, introduced in the House by Representative Jeanne Poppe and in the Senate by Senator Torrey Westrom (HF 1418/SF 1698), would create a state rebate for dairy farmers enrolled in the federal farm bill’s Dairy Margin Coverage Program.
    The second bill, introduced in the House by Representative Jeanne Poppe and in the Senate by Senator Michael Goggin (HF 1419/SF 1699), would provide a financial reward for dairy farmers who are enrolled in conservation programs.
    Both bills hope to prevent further loss of dairy farms in Minnesota by providing much-needed financial assistance for dairy farmers.
    Both bills also need widespread support in the House and Senate.
    If you have not already, now is the time to contact your senator and representative and ask for their support. Make a phone call, send an email, or write a letter.
    It might seem like your phone calls and emails get lost in the crowd, but believe me, they matter.
    One of my internships in college was in the Minnesota Senate. One of my jobs during that internship was handling correspondence from my senator’s constituents.
    While it is true that senators and representatives do not read every piece of mail or listen to every voice message, their staff keeps a tally of contacts in favor of or against active legislation. In other words, your call or email gets counted and legislators use those numbers when deciding how to vote. So, even if you are sending a simple, generic form letter, it counts.
    If you really want your senator or representative to see your contact, include some details about your farm and how the proposed legislation would affect you. As an intern, we sorted through letters/emails and forwarded the most interesting ones to our senator to read. Legislators often play a role in educating and convincing their fellow legislators; they use constituents’ stories to do so.
    Of course, times have changed since my internship. Now, you can also send your legislator a message through Facebook or Twitter. I can only imagine what the interns’ contact spreadsheets look like now. Seriously, though, if you use social media, you should be connected with your elected officials. Social media is also a good way to thank them publicly for their support.
    Whether it is an elevator speech or an email, the best form of communication is the one that works best for you. So, pick a method and contact your senator and representative. There has never been a more important time for our state to support dairy farmers.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.