( Photo courtesy DNO Produce )

If you earn a living by working in the produce business, you should care deeply about how politics plays a role in shaping the industry for better or for worse, and you should understand and participate in the process. The decisions that are made with regard to trade, nutrition, immigration, etc., have real consequences on your business.  

Recently I was at a produce industry event having a conversation with a colleague over drinks, and she said to me, “You know, Alex, produce and politics just don’t mix.” 

She then went on to explain the over burdensome regulatory hurdles that plague our industry, the complex process of doing business with the government, and the overall detachment of Washington, D.C., from the rest of the country. 

It was clear that she had a good deal of angst about politics and the government in general. This had caused her to recently disassociate herself from anything related to politics.

If you choose to stand on the sidelines and criticize politics without advocating your ideas for yourself, then you are part of the problem and not the solution.

With certain segments of the population, apathy toward politics and governance seems to have increased. What was once considered an essential civic duty — to get involved in the process — has been reduced to a side show act for zealots and pundits. 

The reason for this reduced level of participation in some demographics is that many people find it easier to turn off and ignore rather than to lean in and engage — and this is entirely the wrong approach.

In the fresh fruit and vegetable world of politics, understanding and engaging in issues is difficult — it takes a lot of time and energy to grasp the complexity of issues that directly affect your business concerns, let alone issues that affect the industry at large. 

However, if you want to have politics work for you instead of complaining about the decisions that others make, you need to engage and put your mouth where your money is. If you choose to stand on the sidelines and criticize politics without advocating your ideas for yourself, then you are part of the problem and not the solution.

One of the simplest ways to get involved in shaping produce policy is to get involved with our industry trade associations. The most profound value that trade associations bring to our industry outside of networking is that they have the ability to distill, package, and focus the voice of our industry into a targeted message aimed in the right direction. 

When done correctly, political engagement will increase the produce consumption curve.

Your money is invested in food politics whether you like it or not, so I encourage you to put your mouth where your money is and get involved. It is imperative that you use your voice to help inspire the vision of the industry that figuratively and literally sustains you. Be vocal. Be engaged. Be political!

Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].

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