By the time Elizabeth Mead sat down to talk to her congressman recently in Washington, D.C., she felt prepared and at ease. She knew what questions to ask and how to tell her own agriculture story after spending 1½ days listening to experts as part of the Young Agricultural Professionals trip to the nation’s capital.
“It was a great experience. I’m glad I went. I took a lot away from it,” said Mead, a loan officer for Farm Credit Services of Mid America.
The first day they visited the New Zealand embassy where they learned how agriculture has adjusted in the country after the elimination of farm subsidies. The Farm Bureau members also learned that New Zealand is not only known for its sheep but deer.
“Deer is a huge commodity over there. Because there’s an overpopulation of deer in the country, they decided to fence them in, raise them and then harvest their meat, velvet and antlers,” said Darrell Rubel, OFBF’s director of learning delivery.
On the second day, the young agricultural leaders listened to freshman Congressman and former OFBF President Bob Gibbs talk about what it is like to serve in Congress. They then went to American Farm Bureau headquarters where they heard from experts about a variety of issues such as the upcoming farm bill and the elimination of the federal estate tax.
Mead of Madison County said all of the talks and briefings helped prepare her for her meeting with Congressman Steve Stivers.
“At the embassy, they let us ask direct questions, and Congressman (Gibbs) helped us by explaining what members of Congress do and how they respond,” she said.
During her meeting with Stivers and his agriculture aide, Mead talked about the proposed dust regulations, how broadband expansion could affect GPS and changes in banking regulations.
“It was perfect because I work for Farm Credit Services and Stivers is on the Committee on Financial Services. We were able to talk about the banking regulations changes and how certain rules don’t apply well in the ag world,” she said.
The trip ended with a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate where the group enjoyed an agriculture-specific farm tour and talk. They learned about what agriculture was like back in the late 1700s and how diverse Washington was in agriculture. Mead said she was amazed that the crop rotations back then were done every seven years, instead of the typical three years today.
“A lot of people said it was the highlight of the trip and that they learned a lot about George Washington and how he was constantly experimenting with new ways to grow crops and be sustainable,” Rubel said. “Even during the war, he was getting reports from his farm manager about what needed to be done.”
After the trip, Mead said she sat down to write a handwritten, follow-up note to Stivers.
“The participants are always surprised at how accessible members of Congress are and that they do listen. They really enjoy telling their story about how the issues affect them and their family and community,” Rubel said. “This is a good opportunity to share their passion about agriculture.”
Photo by Darrell Rubel