Stotz Equipment, Avondale, Ariz.
Waupun Equipment, Waupun, Wis.
Pictured Above: Tom Rosztoczy (left) knows first-hand how getting to know your legislators can pay off big. He shares a story with Dan Scheuers (right) about how lobbying and grassroots efforts killed right to repair in Wyoming, where Stotz Equipment has stores.
Dan Scheuers: Coming to Washington, what kind of impact do you feel we, as our organization with EDA and as individual dealers, can have on our government?
Tom Rosztoczy: Boy, that’s a hard question. You’d like to think when we go talk to our senators and our representatives that they listen to us and what we say matters. I really struggle to believe that’s actually true on an individual 20-minute meeting. Because I’m sure they’re having 20, 20-minute meetings today, and 20, 20-minute meetings tomorrow. There’s a lot of people coming here to Washington discussing their particular agendas. So I don’t know that in one day of meetings we’re actually going to have a chance to really have an impact.
I think the opportunity for impact comes more from building relationships and beating the drum. Then perhaps at some point in the future, when a serious issue arises that we have significant interest in, the relationships we build this week can come into play. It’s then that we can actually have an impact. It’s the infrastructure that we build as EDA in doing these events, so we know how to organize, we know how to get dealers in, and get dealers connected to their senators and representatives. That infrastructure also helps.
If a serious issue comes to the front, then we can organize ourselves around it and have a grassroots effort pulled together. It helps when you and I and other dealers spend time here in Washington and get a sense for how it works, so if we need to organize a grassroots effort the odds are we can be helpful. Individually, we are much greater because we have a sense for how the Hill works. So, what do you think?
“Presenting them with the materials that we have is fine … The real impact is reinforcing the message and creating relationships…”
– Dan Scheuers
Scheuers: One of the things that has been near and dear to me is the right to repair. I come from the service side of the business, and I’m glad it is where it is today and it’s squashed as of right now. I think that is a big, big item for our dealerships. Part of the profitability of our dealerships is determinable at times by our service departments. If we had that taken away from us, that’s just another challenge.
Because both our dealerships have dairy customers, fair trade is extremely important. That said, I don’t have the answers to what the dynamics of fair trade or equal trade are. But it’s extremely important to us because the products our customers produce are consumables, and there’s got to be a market for it. It can’t sit around for 3 years. And hopefully we can make an impact.
I feel the same way you do, but there’s not a lot a whole lot of options at home to meet congressmen and senators. Yeah we may see them at the 4th of July parade, and things like that. But here, we’re in their environment so hopefully, they see our face and if they ever see us again they think, “Oh yeah, I remember your face. I don’t necessarily know who you are, but I remember your face.”
So creating relationships is what I would say is the most important thing that we can do here. Presenting them with the materials that we have is fine, but I think they have that stuff, they know it. The real impact is reinforcing the message and creating relationships and say, “Hey there’s actually somebody from Wisconsin, or someone from Arizona that took enough time to say this is important to them.”
Rosztoczy: You brought up right to repair. We do business in Wyoming and Wyoming recently went through a right to repair bill in their legislature. I think it was a great example of the positive benefits of doing stuff like this. Wyoming runs a very short legislative session, it’s 20 days. You don’t have much time to act once you find out there’s a bill. In 20 days the session is going to be over. So it’s going to be determined one way or the other.
We found out about the right to repair legislation coming up in Wyoming, and then the following Monday the committee voted on it. It passed out of committee by a 5-4 vote, and that same Thursday it came up before the assembly and it lost in the assembly 48-12. And the reason it lost in the assembly 48-12 was because a combination of EDA and the Far West Equipment Dealers Assn. (FWEDA), which is the regional association for Wyoming, came together and pulled together a great grassroots organizational effort. Dealers from around the state came together to inform legislators and communicate with legislators about what right to repair meant, the difference between right to repair and right to modify, and how the legislation they were proposing would impact the farm equipment business. And basically, legislators wound up deciding that it wasn’t a good idea to pass that bill, which was wonderful.
But it was the combination of the folks in Wyoming already having relationships with their legislators like we’re trying to do now here in D.C. So when they wanted to make phone calls, they could make phone calls to people they knew. And in addition, FWEDA and Joani Woelfel, who runs it, did a great job organizing the dealers and of pulling them together to create an organized grassroots effort, which was a big deal.
And then the third piece of that was the EDA itself, along with AEM, who had put together a position paper on right to repair. So when those dealers came together they actually had the arguments ready to explain to the legislators what made sense about right to repair and what didn’t make sense.
And that perfect storm of those three things coming together enabled the dealers to stop the right to repair legislation in Wyoming, in one week, which was a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Scheuers: It’s a great example of how the system can work.