It’s been 23 years since I’ve visited our nation’s capital. At that time, I was an excited 8th grader eagerly anticipating four days without parents in a faraway city. This trip was completely different.
Earlier this month Ohio Farm Bureau’s AgriPOWER XI class, accompanied by Young Ag Professionals, arranged a fly in to meet with those people making the decisions impacting Ohio farmers. Fifty-six representatives from all sectors of Ohio agriculture united to address daily issues challenging our farmers. Every topic from mental health and opioid addiction to international markets and access to broadband was discussed and questioned. There wasn’t a single occasion where the group shied from asking the tough questions of our nation’s leaders. Speakers ranged from the Drug Tsar, Jim Carroll from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to Joe Shultz, Democratic staff director of the Senate Ag Committee.
Included in our outreach was a visit to the Irish Embassy to discuss international issues affecting the global ag community. We were honored to be addressed by not only the Irish Attaché, Phil Barr, but the ambassador himself took the time to explain the negative impacts closing borders as a result of the United Kingdom’s nationalist movement, Brexit, will have on Irish farms.
In stark contrast to our visit with the Irish, the organizers of Common Good City Farm expounded the challenges of reclaiming vacant lots for food production. As food deserts continually crop up throughout our metropolitan areas, solutions must be found to provide for those communities unable to access grocery stores. Common Good city farm is able to do this. However, due to the time and labor-intensive nature of food production, urban farms will never be able fulfill the demand put on agriculture to supply food for a growing population.
It was with these contrasting perspectives, international and local, we returned to the main purpose of our visit. Face-to-face conversations with policy makers representing each of our individual districts. And so, we headed up the Hill. I had the pleasure of having an extended discussion with Congressman Troy Balderson. Our conversation ran the gamut from the upcoming vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to farmland preservation and ended with land management for soil health and water quality.
When I started this week of tours and talks, I expected to leave the congressman’s office on the final day with a sense of relief — the idea that my job was done. However, I found that to be entirely the opposite. Although my discussion was productive and my opinions noted, my role as an advocate for agriculture and conservation was far from over. Nelson Mandela is noted as saying, “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
And so, after taking just a moment to rest and appreciate the grandeur that is Washington, D.C., I returned to Ohio where more hills await me. The members of AgriPOWER XI and Ohio Young Ag Professionals have come a great distance in just a few days, but we cannot rest. We have the freedom and the responsibility to act in the best interests of our farming community. Our walk has most definitely not ended.
Lauren Fehlan’s DC Trip blog: All issues are local