How to Contact Congress
When it comes to what you eat, Congress has a great deal of influence. Our elected officials determine everything from the level of support organic farming receives in the Farm Bill, to whether or not GMO foods are required to be labeled, and whether or not to fund healthy food access programs that address hunger. Since their decisions have wide-ranging effects, it is important to make your voice heard on the issues that are of particular interest to you.
Contact Congress. It's easy.
Many people don’t realize just how easy it is to contact Congress. The process involves a few simple steps and, depending on how much you have to say, can take as little as ten minutes to complete:
- Visit www.govtrack.us.
- Search for the bill (proposed law) you wish to comment on. You can also browse for agriculture and food related bills.
- Click “Call Congress” and follow the prompts. You will have an opportunity to email your lawmaker or have a congressional staffer call you at a number you provide.
- Remember to complete steps #1 and #2 for your two Senators and one House Representative.
Calling or emailing your lawmakers is the most effective way to contact them (short of visiting them in person). If you decide to send a written letter, be aware that most mail sent to government offices is delayed by safety screening, so your letter may not arrive before the bill comes up for a final vote.
If you’re feeling shy or nervous about communicating your viewpoints, know that your phone call or email will be answered by a staff person who has been trained to listen to your viewpoint and convey it to your congressperson—they will not debate or challenge you.
Typically, your lawmaker will follow up with you within a few days, acknowledging your comments and explaining his or her viewpoint on the issue. You can even track the progress of the bill by clicking “track this bill” on the bill’s web page at www.govtrack.us. You’ll receive updates whenever the bill is scheduled for debate, gets a new cosponsor or is voted upon. It can be a gratifying experience to take part in the political process, and once you get the hang of it, contacting Congress is an easy and effective way to positively impact the issues that you care about.
Contacting Congress FAQ
What if I don't know who to contact?
Most U.S. citizens are represented in Congress by two senators and one house representative. When you follow the steps outlined above, GovTrack will automatically route you to the three lawmakers who represent you, based on your address.
What do I say?
You'll be more effective if you are prepared.
Cite the bill’s tracking number.
Every bill is assigned a tracking number when it is introduced to Congress. House bills are preceded with “H.R.” and Senate bills are preceded with “S.”
Say why you support or oppose this bill.
You may wish to write down two to three points to explain why you think the bill is good or bad, or adapt talking points provided by an organization that advocates on the issue.
Give an example of how this bill would affect you, your family, business or community.
Lawmakers need to hear from a wide variety of perspectives on any given issue, so providing examples of how a law would impact you personally is great. Personalized comments have more weight than general comments, especially those that strictly follow talking points put out by advocacy organizations. Lawmakers often reason that if a constituent (a resident of the state or district which they represent) is willing to take the time to contact them directly and describe how the bill would affect them personally, that constituent is also more likely to vote in elections.