Last week I had the unique opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for National Ag Day, organized by the Agriculture Council of America. With the generous support of Farm Credit, several student organizations were able to participate in special Ag Day programming to prepare students for spreading the positive message of agriculture on Capitol Hill on March 20. Following that programming, we were dropped off on Capitol Hill to make a difference! Each student was able to meet with senators and congressmen from their locales to inform them about the importance of agriculture and the purpose of Ag Day at the Capitol. This was one of the most invaluable experiences and I cannot thank our sponsors enough, especially Farm Credit, for affording me the opportunity to see agricultural policy in action and to learn how to make a positive difference for agriculture in my own community.
The most important thing I learned from the Ag Day programming was the importance of promoting the positive image of agriculture, both on The Hill and at home. A lot of our discussions focused on the discrepancy in agricultural education in rural areas as opposed to urban communities. During one of our first sessions, students from each state presented their most prominent challenges, relating to agriculture in their area, and one of the most common issues with which every state seemed to struggle was this education gap. If anything, the Ag Day event engrained in me the importance of being a voice for agriculture nationally as well as locally.
This event also taught me more about agricultural politics than I ever could have learned in a classroom. I had no previous experience with agricultural policy, but during the Ag Day events, I was able to gain perspective on what it’s like to be at the Capitol, lobbying for policy that helps improve the agricultural industry and protect farmers, ranchers, and everyone involved in agriculture. I was astonished by the many facets of agricultural policy, covering everything from water rights to rural development to immigration reform and school lunches. The opportunity to hear from representatives from a wide variety of departments at the USDA opened my eyes to the breadth of organizations and coalitions that affect agricultural policy on a daily basis.
I was surprised and impressed by the caliber of the speakers who were leading our sessions. We had the chance to interact with the veritable leaders of the agricultural industry and were able to share our thoughts and opinions with them. It was also surprising and encouraging to hear that some of the most influential people in agricultural policy came from a similar background as many of the students in attendance at the Ag Day event.
I will be graduating with a B.S. in Animal Science in June, after which I plan to pursue a career in animal health. I would like to eventually return to graduate school to study livestock production, but I think there is value in gaining some work experience before going back to school. Wherever my career takes me, I know that I will never forget my incredible experience and the invaluable connections I made at Ag Day in Washington, D.C.
Source: M. Johnita Lanni-Cradit is a senior in animal science at the University of California-Davis.