US Capitol

Young professionals with strong leadership potential are hand-selected each year to share their ideas with members of Congress and to learn about international agriculture and how to grow personally and professionally. The group was in the nation’s capital Sept. 12-14 and visited with their respective congressional representative, met with American Farm Bureau staff members for industry and issues updates, and got a behind-the-scenes look at how Washington really works, all while enjoying networking with other young professionals, and exploring a world view of agriculture during a visit to an embassy.

Sept. 12

The first day of the trip was a bright and early one and the group was enthusiastic about getting the adventure started. Ohio Farm Bureau First Vice President and State Trustee Cy Prettyman welcomed everyone to Washington and charged the group with expanding their network and building relationships with their political leaders.

Then, Whittney Bowers, Ohio Farm Bureau director of state policy and grassroots engagement, led an intriguing game that explained how different voting processes in district elections work. The concept was to show the complexity of legislation and how a personal message or relationship can directly impact a vote. This idea correlated with this trip because participants are learning how to make personal connections with political leaders to make a big difference.

Jack Irvin, Ohio Farm Bureau vice president of public policy, explained the grassroots policy process. One of the more interesting questions asked by the group was, “Does policy ever expire?” The answer is no. It can be re-evaluated but it does not have an expiration date.

R.J. Layher, American Farm Bureau

Following Irvin’s remarks, the group welcomed R.J. Layher, director of government affairs for American Farm Bureau Federation, who gave an update on the upcoming farm bill and the importance of it passing. A main focus of the ag component in the farm bill will be crop insurance.

Executive Vice President Adam Sharp gave an Ohio Farm Bureau overview to the group and encouraged the Young Agricultural Professionals to take advantage of the opportunity to be in the same room with their representatives.

“This is where we fight the battles. This is where we make things happen,” Sharp said.

2023 YAP DC Trip
Participants work in groups to discuss policy points to speak about with legislators tomorrow.

To complete the leadership development portion of the day, participants in each district coordinated on the policy points they would be discussing with their congressional representatives tomorrow. The four main discussion points are the farm bill, ag chemistry used on farms, water quality and trade and economic concerns.

The day ended with a dinner for all Young Ag Professionals at Hill Country BBQ and an evening monument tour in the city.

Sept. 13

Participants began the second day of the leadership experience on Capitol Hill implementing the grassroots process. They experienced the appreciation congressional representatives have for farmers and ranchers and shared their story to serve as the “boots on the ground” resources for policy in agriculture. The main topic of discussion was the upcoming farm bill and how important it is that crop insurance assistance remains a major component.

From left, OFBF State Trustee Chris Weaver, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Alexander Rytel (staff), Jake Zajkowski, Ellie Oyer and Megan Perry.

After meetings with legislators on the Hill, the group set out on an adventure to the United Kingdom, otherwise known as the British Embassy to learn about global agricultural advocacy. The group was welcomed by the ag attaché for the U.K., Will Surman. Surman is the first attaché to serve in the United States on behalf of the United Kingdom. His role is to be the liaison between his counterparts in London, the National Farmers Union and the agriculture advocacy groups in the United States. The United Kingdom’s largest exports are scotch whiskey, seafood, pork and recently, lamb.

YAP DC Group meets with Will Surman, ag attaché from the British Embassy in Washington.

The group learned that the average size of a farm in the U.K. is 120 hectares, the equivalent of about 300 acres, making it a financial challenge to farm full time. While farming full time in the U.K. is difficult, succession planning, a widely discussed topic in the United States, is another hurdle because there are no government programs to assist beginning farmers.

“Our plan for sustaining agriculture is promoting public perception by utilizing the media and making sure that the public is exposed to how important the industry is,” Surman said.

The group was able to witness the importance of global trade agreements in conjunction with legislature relationships when the topic of trade economics is on the floor.

To wrap up the day, the Young Ag Professionals were allotted time to explore Washington, D.C and then were accompanied by Ohio Farm Bureau state trustees and staff for dinner to continue networking and building connections.

Sept. 14

The final day of the trip began with the Young Ag Professionals State Committee members Hannah Divencenzo, Derek Snider and Makalya Eggleton giving updates on various ways the participants can get involved in Farm Bureau after the D.C. leadership experience. They discussed opportunities such as applying to be selected to attend the YF&R leadership conference, participating in the different YAP contests, attending the Ohio winter leadership conference in January and applying to be a social media ambassador for the conference.  

The group went back to Capitol Hill to meet with Wes King, the legislative assistant for Sen. Sherrod Brown. King spoke to the group about the top priorities of the farm bill from the Senate Ag Committee, including the Local Farms and Food Act, water quality, rural development and childcare and ag technology and innovation. King discussed the process of the farm bill being extended if it does not get passed by this December. 

The Young Ag Professional group outside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

King described the inner workings of the committee that consists of a group of staff experts who write the legislative text and the committee members that negotiate the high-level conversations and funding. An interesting fact about the Senate Ag Committee is that the table the committee conducts meetings at is a long table that all of the committee members sit around. This is different from other committees because usually the staff sits in the audience. This difference demonstrates the committee’s desire to work together and find common ground. 

The group toured the U.S Capitol building and then Arlington National Cemetery, a very surreal experience for all participants. 

“E pluribus unum” means “out of many, one.” This is a historically profound motto used to describe the U.S Capitol building symbolizing the different state personalities and perspectives forming a union to fabricate the U.S government. The motto is very fitting for this leadership experience because participants came together from all facets of agriculture to advocate for the greater good of the industry.

Adele Flynn, OFBF state trustee, closed out the trip with a call to action for participants to get involved within their communities and local Farm Bureaus to continue strengthening Ohio agriculture.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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