Junior, agribusiness major
To commemorate the 2017 National Ag Day, I flew out to our nation’s capital on Sunday, March 19th to join a hundred other college students representing 38 states. Sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America, National Ag Day intends to raise awareness of the importance of the agriculture industry in America and educate consumers on how their food is produced. The student representative program I was a part of aimed to put a face on agriculture for the legislators we met with on Capitol Hill, and to create a new wave of strong advocates for American agriculture. All students came as a part of a sponsoring organization, either FFA (Future Farmers of America), AFA (Agriculture Future of America), 4-H, or MANNRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, or Related Sciences).
The event began at the National 4-H Center with a session to learn more about the policies which shape the agriculture industry. Students were split into groups along issue based lines, such as immigration and labor, trade, and animal agriculture. Each group had the opportunity to meet with a few staff members from the Hill to receive an insider’s perspective. In my particular group, crops-based agriculture, we met with members working with the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture and the US Rice Federation. The discussion focused on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill and the new administration. Speaking with these professionals gave students the insight into what policies were affecting the industry now, and what they speculated would be implemented soon. Students then developed their advocacy skills by creating their own agricultural story, and learned how to craft an impactful message. The student representatives had all different backgrounds, from urban and rural, from producer families or not.
The next morning on Tuesday, March 21st, the official National Ag Day, all 100 students took on Capitol Hill to represent their home state agriculture industries. The delegation from California consisted of: Mackenzie Carvalho, an Oklahoma State University student originally from Maxwell who attended through AFA, Megan Daniels from Modesto Junior College who attended through California 4-H, Haley Warner from Cal Poly, SLO who attend through AFA and myself, Trent Baldwin attending through 4-H.
After our group pictures in front of the Capitol building, the group went to Senator Feinstein’s office in the Hart building. We were one of many groups meeting with her staff that day- the waiting room had to be extended into the hall. Eventually, we met up with Iain Hart, one of Senator Feinstein’s legislative correspondents. We discussed issues such as Farm Bill funding for research and extension programs, water issues in California, and legislation such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Hart reassured us that the Senator would always be a supporter of California agriculture and the specialty crops which make our state’s industry so unique to the country.
Next, we met at Representative Jeff Denham’s office in the Longworth Building. Denham’s district spans through parts of the San Joaquin valley region, including Turlock and Modesto. His office environment was friendly. We met with Tracey Chow, legislative assistant, and discussed Representative Denham’s views on immigration, the H2A visa program, and speculation towards the future of agriculture labor in California under the Trump Administration.
To top it off, all 100 students concluded for a pizza lunch in the Longworth building for a presentation on #AgDay365, a movement started by the American Agri-Women. After a quick lesson in social media advocacy and how to be an “agvocate” every day of the year, students said goodbye with long hugs, grabbed leftover pizza in true college fashion, and sprinted towards the bus that would take them back home.
Overall, the was a great opportunity. I am very thankful for this experience!