By: Chloe Fowler, agricultural communications major with a law and society minor
Traveling across the country, four total layovers, airport shutdowns, nights spent in airports, and having major jetlag. And it was all completely worth it. When I traveled to Washington D.C. in March this year for Agriculture Future of America Policy Institute, it was on behalf of both California and Cal Poly. Myself and Jillian Raycraft were the only representatives from California, from all AFA, FFA, 4-H and MANRRS. It was through AFA that we were able to represent California in Washington D.C. on National Ag Day.
Through Agriculture Future of America, we had the opportunity to travel and participate in Policy Institute, a prestigious conference held to promote future leaders who are interested in agricultural policy and the legislation that regulates the agricultural industry. Through industry socials and mixers, students had the opportunity to explore different career paths and options.
Lobbyists, spokesmen, and company representatives shared about their activism and different legislations they have had involvement in. Seeing some speak about how they had been involved in the creation and amendments of over five Farm Bills, compared to those who are currently working on their first Farm Bill, provided the contrast of opinions as well as showed how much of a revolving door the political atmosphere of Washington D.C. is.
On National Ag Day, each student had opportunities to meet with members of Congress, senators, and staff on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of agriculture in their states and communities. It was intriguing to explore the labyrinth of buildings that connected each building on Capitol Hill and the behind the scenes of how members of Congress and the Senate, as well as important decision makers, proceed throughout their day. Simply by stopping into the local café or break room, you can see casual meetings as well as general greetings passed between everyone, where no matter their personal opinions or party affiliation, they are still in an essence, coworkers become friends regardless of their differences.
Finally, during the closing meal, all attendees were privileged to hear from the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Perdue spoke about how important it is for our generation to continue pursuing careers in agriculture and policy and advocating for the importance of agriculture. It was inspiring to see a man who has dedicated his life to agriculture in our nation and is doing what he perceives to be in the best interest of the greatest and strongest industry in the nation.
Regardless of the setbacks that come from traveling across the nation, the experience of attending the institute was truly special and unique. I am thankful to Agriculture Future of America for granting myself the opportunity to further explore my career options and goals, and continue advocating for agriculture across the nation.