Young Agriculture Professional (YAP) Michelle Heinz participated in the YAP D.C. trip representing Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau. Michelle shared that experience with us:
The YAP D.C. trip was a three day campaign for the Young Agricultural Professionals group. 35 individuals from across the state represented their counties and the needs of farmers and agricultural enthusiasts around them in the nation’s capitol. I was fortunate enough to represent Cuyahoga County, and was the only YAP member in attendance who lived in a large city (Cleveland). The group flew into Baltimore on September 11 and bused to D.C. We had lunch shortly upon arrival and then went over to the American Farm Bureau building for a quick briefing on the various issues we would have the chance to lobby for the next day, including: immigration reform, taxes and the national debt, bio-engineered crops and the farm bill, to name the big four. After the briefing and a tour of the building, which was lovely, we descended to Georgetown for dinner at Clyde’s, one of the hallmark eateries in the area.
On the 12th, we had a great networking breakfast with Farm Bureau members from Illinois and Iowa. This was a great opportunity for us to share our views on the political situations as well as farm life. After breakfast we had a fantastic presentation on bio-engineering and mechanics from one of the leading researchers in the field whose name escapes me (it will be in the full write up). She was able to clearly illustrate how almost every type of produce that we consume today has been selectively bred from native ancestors into the crops we have today. For instance, there are about eight different common crops, such as broccoli, that originated from wild cabbage… Fantastic presentation! After breakfast it was off to the Irish Embassy to meet with the agriculture attaché and discuss the similarities between the two countries and more significantly the comparison between Ireland and Ohio.
Finally we went to The Hill to meet with our respective representatives, or at least their staff. I was able to sit in on a presentation in the Agricultural Committee room where several different staffers talked about life as a staffer, working on The Hill, and living in/around D.C. I was then able to meet with one of Representative Marcy Kaptur’s senior staffers, as we discussed immigration reform, the addition of a nutrition element to the farm bill (the bill had been approved without the nutrition program, and AFB wanted to include it), and finding various ways to increase consumer education of where their food comes from to stress the point that bio-engineered food is not bad. It was interesting to learn that Rep. Kaptur grew up in agriculture and is a huge supporter. She is in line will all of the American Farm Bureau (AFB) views aside from the SNAP (food stamp) program that is part of the nutrition element. AFB wishes to regulate and slowly decrease the dollars allocated to that program, while Rep. Kaptur wishes to expand it. That was the only view on which we differed. Her staffer did mention that Rep. Kaptur would be very interested in teaming with the Farm Bureau, particularly in Cuyahoga County, on some type of an outreach program that would promote consumer education… (this was something I spear-headed individually, as I feel Cuyahoga residents need more education concerning what they eat and where it comes from)
After our congressional visits, we had some time to tour The Hill and the museums around it, then boarded the bus for dinner just outside of The Hill. Following dinner, Yvonne Lesicko, the Ohio Farm Bureau lobbyist and our host/tour guide, provided us with a tour of the monuments at night.
The 13th was our final day in D.C. We had a quiet breakfast together and a de-brief before we went to The Hill one last time, this time for a tour of the Capitol Building itself. We were running a bit behind and only had about 30 minutes once the tour got started but it was very interesting to see the inside of the iconic building and hear about some of the history. We then departed for Baltimore and made our way back home.
I had a wonderful time with YAP in D.C., and I hope to have the opportunity to go again. D.C. was a beautiful city rich in history. This trip opened my eyes to other career opportunities, but also helped me understand the Farm Bureau’s political position and why lobbying is so important. I really do hope to attend the trip again, as it was a great experience all the way around.