Contacting your policy makers: be polite, insistent, and consistent

With your help, the Center for Rural Affairs has a long history of working with lawmakers to help advance policies with big impacts on rural communities. We encourage you to get involved and make sure your representatives support the issues you care about.

Take action

Elected officials work on a great deal of legislation impacting rural communities. To have a say, make sure you know your representatives. Each voter is represented by three members of Congress: two senators in the U.S. Senate elected by the people of your state, and one representative in the U.S. House elected by neighbors in your district. Senators hold six-year terms, while House members hold two-year terms.

Each official has an office in Washington, D.C., and at least one office in your state or district. Addresses and phone numbers can be found on their official websites. Mailing lists are useful to stay informed. To make contacting them easier, you can save phone numbers in your cell phone or put the numbers someplace prominent, like on the fridge.

Call your representative

While there are many ways to contact your policy maker, taking part in a “call your representatives” campaign is a useful and effective way to make your voice heard. You can join others ringing in on a particular day about a certain issue.

To help you engage on rural issues, we will sometimes send “action alerts” asking you to contact representatives. Action alerts are emails or postcards that give a summary of an issue and why it is urgent. (In most cases, you may already know about the issue from reading our newsletters, emails, blogs, or social media updates.) We generally send alerts on funding or appropriations bills, or items such as the farm bill.

For example, an action alert might say: “Please call Sen. Grassley at 202.224.3744 to let him know you support full funding for conservation programs.”

When you call, a legislative aide will answer the phone and record your message. Remember: give your name and zip code so they know you are a constituent; stay short and to the point; and stick with one issue per call, per day.

If you forget or lose your representative’s phone number, you may call the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and operators will forward your call to the appropriate office.

Be sure to thank your representative when they do something you like.

Meet in person

Representatives periodically have public town hall meetings that provide opportunities to ask about issues you care about, and to meet other people who share your concerns.

Another option is to request a meeting. At the Center for Rural Affairs, we often arrange meetings between constituents and their representatives (or their representatives’ staff). We welcome you to join us.

Build relationships

Your representative will not always vote in your favor or change their position. However, this relationship is similar to others in your life. If you are polite, insistent, and consistent, you can build and maintain a good working relationship.

If you would like to learn more about an issue or how to get involved, contact me at or 515.215.1294.

Feature photo: Mark Peterson (middle), a farmer near Stanton, Iowa, testified at the Iowa statehouse in April. He is pictured with staff members Anna Johnson and Stephanie Enloe. Testifying is just one way to work with lawmakers to help advance policies. | Photo submitted.