Seed World

Seed First PAC Looks to Find Friends on the Hill

US Capitol

As an industry, we all know the importance of finding and making “friends” on Capitol Hill. Having someone ready to stand up and support agriculture initiatives is crucial, given how many new members of Congress haven’t voted on a farm bill, helps get more voices in support of the future of agriculture.

That’s why the Seed First PAC was formed — to help identify and find voices ready to advocate on behalf of the industry in both the House and the Senate.

“Years ago, leaders in the seed industry came together with a mission to expand the reach of the seed industry on Capitol Hill. They recognized the importance of having a dedicated platform to amplify the industry’s voices, and advance our shared goals and policy priorities,” says Payton Englert, director of government affairs for the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). “In May 2015, the Seed First PAC was born. While a Political Action Committee (or PAC, for short) isn’t the only advocacy tool we utilize, it has proven to be an important and effective companion in combination with our other advocacy efforts.”

One of the key objectives of ASTA’s PAC is to build meaningful relationships with elected officials and candidates, ensuring the industry’s concerns and aspirations are heard and considered when important decisions are made, Englert adds.

When it comes down to it, there’s one thing to remember — when joining together, the industry’s voice has a powerful impact, says Bryan Gerard, president of JoMar Seeds and chair of ASTA’s Seed First PAC.

“ASTA is a valuable resource for those serving on the hill,” he says. “We continue to see our engagement yielding positive results and placing ASTA as a voice for our entire industry.”

As part of a seed company, Gerard has seen Seed First PAC impact different companies — from the smallest, independent company to the largest, multinational.

“We are a voice for issues that impact all aspects of the seed sector. Regardless of size or crop kind, our members are benefitting from our ability to support key members of Congress who drive legislation. This is key,” he says. “We have and will continue to create opportunities for our members to connect with their Senator and Representatives. I think this brings real value to our members, especially the smaller independent companies.”

Making friends on the Hill isn’t the only goal Seed First PAC looks to achieve, though. Englert says the PAC can help find solutions for some of the major challenges agriculture and the seed sector are facing.

“Our industry is facing a wide array of challenges; from a growing population to evolving pests and diseases,” she says. “It’s important that the seed industry has a seat at the table when discussing these obstacles and play a role in crafting solutions to overcome them. The Seed First PAC allows us to be a part of the discussion and showcase support for our priorities to members of Congress.”

For the future, Gerard hopes to see Seed First PAC grow its voice to continue to offer help to the seed sector.

That growth can happen in a few different ways: the total amount of contributions, number of contributors and continual participation on the Hill events.

“I believe these three things will enhance and empower our staff to even a greater level,” he says. “We are blessed to have Janae, Payton, Andy and other staff working on the Hill for us.  They are very well respected, have full understanding of the issues, and communicate our message very well.”

In the end, if there’s one thing to remember about the PAC — it’s the bridge being built between the seed sector and U.S. representatives.

“The Seed First PAC allows us to engage in thoughtful discussions, provide insight, and offer support to those who align with our mission, all while creating a bridge between the industry’s voice and the halls of Congress,” Englert says.

To learn more information about Seed First PAC, join the casino night at the ASTA Leadership Summit in Sacramento on Sunday, June 11, from 8-10 PM PST. Tickets are $200 for individuals and $350 for couples. Or, if you can’t join the event and have questions, reach out to Englert or Gerard.