The time is upon us again...a lot of handshakes, baby hugs and having our airwaves overtaken by "we said, they said," propaganda. Yes, it's election season.

It's easy to understand why the majority of Americans have become cynical about our electoral process. I remember the days when politics was more simple and forthcoming, before Americans were left to decipher the rhetoric of campaign spinmeisters and pollsters.

But just because our political process seems like something made for the tabloids, it doesn't mean it's any less important for us to participate and have a voice-in fact it's more important now than ever.

In the Spotlight
No matter the outcome, we are all witnesses to history in the making of this presidential election. While some of the national focus has been on the unique characteristics of all the candidates, Farm Bureau has been assertive in making sure that agricultural issues are addressed.

This summer, we invited candidates Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama to visit by phone hookup with our state Farm Bureau presidents during a meeting in Washington. Refreshingly, both candidates accepted our invitation, and took the time from the campaign trail to express their thoughts on U.S. agriculture and rural America. They even took time to answer questions from the assembled farm leaders.

In addition, both candidates took a good measure of time to answer questions on a comprehensive, agricultural-specific issue questionnaire we presented them. Their answers are printed in the Sept. 22 issue of FB News.

Judging from those answers, our earlier conversations, their voting records and other public statements, both Sens. McCain and Obama represent what I call a mixed bag of support for agricultural issues important to Farm Bureau.

For example, Sen. Obama supports the renewable fuels standard and the farm bill, whereas Sen. McCain champions offshore drilling and many of the Farm Bureau-supported tax reform provisions.

While the American Farm Bureau remains bipartisan and does not support any one candidate over the other, we highly encourage our members to look deep, past the campaign rhetoric, at how each of these candidates, if elected, would treat U.S. agriculture and our rural communities.

Even more important, this election is about which candidate would best provide leadership to our country. Because at the end of the day, he will preside over the entire nation-not just one issue.

Side Stage, But Just as Important
Probably more important to agriculture than the presidential election are the many congressional races and ballot initiatives. The agriculture industry is far more impacted by congressional action and local referenda.

Substantial changes in the congressional makeup could have major impacts on the agriculture industry. With many tight races this fall, each vote not only counts, but carries significant weight.

The same can be said for the multitude of agricultural-related ballot initiatives. In California voters will decide whether or not to allow animals to be raised in modern housing systems. If passed, California's Proposition 2 would practically eliminate egg production in that state. But it doesn't stop in California, many other ballot initiatives are playing out across the country this fall.

It's up to each and every one of us to be the deciding factor this election. Get involved. Cast your vote. Make your voice heard.

Instead of viewing this election negatively, think of it as your opportunity to advocate for agriculture, as well as uphold your ideals for this country. The stage is yours. How you dance and your choice of a dance partner are up to you.