Cy Prettyman’s election took place during Ohio Farm Bureau’s 105th annual meeting, Dec. 7-8 in Columbus.Read More
On Sept. 12, 2023 I boarded a plane for our nation’s capital.
The journey didn’t start there though. Let’s rewind for a second. In May, I received an email from the Ohio Farm Bureau, asking if I would represent my county in a trip to Washington, D.C. This trip was for Young Ag Professionals and I would be the representative from my county (a county gets a representative once every four years). I asked for a few days to think about it; having a family where both parents work can make it difficult for a trip like this. After a few days I said I would go. My reasons for going were that it would be a great honor to represent my county, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will be able to report back to my county with any information learned at the capital.
Now, I had to see if my suit still fit me or not. I got lucky. I had a suit from college that still fit, and two other suits that need some tailoring. I know that the dress code is a suit one day and business casual the other days, so my one suit will suffice.
My next step was to attend an online informational conference Sept. 6, six days before I must leave. A brief email was sent to me in late August, giving some more information. Most of the information is still unknown at this time. I was unable to attend the call live on Sept. 6 because of work, however the call was recorded and I was able to listen and gather all necessary information.
Sept. 12, 2023. 3:45 am.
My family and I departed for the airport so I could catch the flight that left at 6:20 a.m. No issues were had getting through security, finding the gate, or finding my OFB group. I need to make a note here that while I learned nearly everyone’s name that was on the trip I did not tell anyone I was writing anything about our trip. Therefore, I do not know if they would want their name mentioned, so out of cautious respect I will not be using any names of our traveling group. At the gate the group leader handed me a name tag and introduced themself to me. Not much happened from here until we arrived at the hotel.
In the crowded city was a hotel tucked in between massive government buildings; quaint, but busy. Our luggage was dropped in a safe room and locked. We were already eating breakfast and getting to know members of the trip by about 8 a.m. Following icebreakers and some important information about the hotel/travel instruction, we were prepared by a multitude of speakers for the next day. These speakers spoke of the farm bill, how policy works in D.C., the importance of our personal stories and how we are impacted. This was the majority of our day, finally wrapping up at about 1ish. We were supposed to tour the USDA with Iowa and Wisconsin Farm Bureau, however that was canceled by events outside of our control.
Getting to check into my room is always a relaxing experience. I find it depressing to look at my life for the next three days on the inside of a roller suitcase. I then attempted to take a nap, but that was futile. Calling home was a much needed boost to my morale. Others went to some of the museums and other sites that were nearby. At about 5 p.m. we departed for BBQ and a night tour of monuments. The BBQ was worth every bite, but the real fun was seeing the exquisite architecture of the monuments starting at dusk. I found myself standing on the steps of the Lincoln monument staring at the Washington monument and its reflection in complete awe. The group then ventured to the Vietnam and Korean War monuments. As I looked at the names of men who died and the statues that represent those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I couldn’t help but wonder what they would think of our country in its current state. I would have this feeling in only two days’ time, but more on that later. Our final stop was that of the White House, unfortunately this was the least appealing spot. It’s hard to imagine that this place was once home to the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Lincoln, FDR, JFK, Carter, Reagan, but in the past six years have given our nation two jokes to represent our great country.
Sept. 13, 2023. 7:30 a.m.
Breakfast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, and lots of coffee. I don’t remember the last time I slept so sound. All of our members have been prepped, we are dressed in business professional attire, and we are ready for our congressional meetings. My group didn’t have a meeting until 11:15 that morning, and we arrived at the Capitol building around 9 a.m. We took a group photo. With time to spare I decided to follow a small group heading to the Supreme Court, as I have never been inside. I found this building to be one of the most visually striking, and beauty at its finest. A must is seeing the floating spiral staircase as it is a true architectural marvel. From there I walked with my roommate and district member to the botanical gardens which were close to our building where we would have our meeting. Once inside our building, we dodged the sea of lobbyists and staff members to meet up with our group.
I would like to speak about security for one moment. While it may seem like there should be more, it was no joke. Every building we wanted to enter, you had to pass through what I assume were metal detectors. All the items you brought with you had to go through an X-ray machine. These police officers take no flak, nor do they wish to take any form of attitude. If you do find yourself on a trip, make sure you comply and move on.
Meeting with the district representative (staffer met with our group) 11:15 a.m.
Many people may find it disrespectful that the representative didn’t meet with our group; however, you must understand a few things. First, this was the first week back from summer break and almost every group that could lobby was lobbying. Second, there were many bills that were set to expire at the end of September, not just the farm bill that we were lobbying for. Third, the amount of information and topics that our representatives have to hear about and vote on is monumental. There is no way a single person could be well versed on all topics. This being said, let’s get back to my meeting. The staffer listened, was respectful, and engaged with us. I have serious doubts about how much they knew about agriculture and the true impact the topics we brought up had on even our group as young farmers. I stressed the importance of ARC/PLC (crop insurance), especially as a young farmer with little leverage. The 2019 year was mentioned by another Ohio Farm Bureau member because of the amount of prevent plant that was used throughout the U.S. that year (I believe this number was close to almost $620 million in two weeks). Without the insurance, many farmers would have lost everything. Other issues included trade, the impact of conservation initiative and the need for those to be voluntary, ag chemistry, and technology that keeps getting regulated and difficult to use due to that regulation. Overall it was a good meeting, but I have my doubts. Other OFB members had incredibly productive meetings and felt that they had an immediate impact for their respective districts.
Following the meeting my group decided to eat in the building’s cafeteria. While scarfing down my pizza I realized something. In this packed room sat people who were lobbying for issues that they were passionate about, just like I was. Veterans, educators, animal activists, major corporations, and multiple agricultural organizations were represented in this small room. It was a true melting pot. Next I boarded my bus with my OFB members.
British Embassy 1:30 pm.
Waiting. Standing on a sidewalk, waiting to get in, I was sweating like I was cleaning out a grain bin in August. Thankfully I was wearing a black suit instead of a grey suit. My group was admitted into the embassy, which is foreign soil. In the building I was relieved to feel the air conditioning. We were meeting with the ag attaché, which is what I am considering to mean their ag representative. The rep talked about a multitude of things, but I found it most interesting to hear about how a country that imports over half of their food and drink deals with supply chain issues. Issues that weren’t exploited until Covid hit the world, much like the U.S. they too had to scramble to get and find alternatives for importation. Boarding the bus again I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am.
Back to the hotel for a quick change then I joined a group heading to the Library of Congress. After a short walk in some declining heat I found myself looking at Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. I was astonished at how much he was able to read, but also the diversity of books that were found here. It ranged from anatomy to romance, and politics to fiction. This is a must stop if you ever find yourself in D.C. If you do go, I also recommend getting a library card; this will grant you access to the reading room. It is free and good for two years. I did not sit down to read any books, rather I walked around the room, and just soaked it in. It’s a true marvel and one room I could spend eternity in.
I tried to call home again for a shot of morale as it was a very long day. With how busy the city was and even with wifi, Facetiming my family was not a success. Nevertheless I soldiered on. It was time for dinner with our state members that made the trip. The group I was involved with went to a steakhouse tucked in beside the many restaurants of D.C. It was a delicious meal, and maybe tasted so decadent because I was famished. The company and conversations that took place were just as enjoyable as the meal itself.
Time for bed. Exhausted is an understatement.
Sept. 14, 2023 7:30 a.m.
Breakfast was at the hotel banquet room we were in the last two days. Again, lots of coffee. This time we are heading to meet with Sherrod Brown’s staffer who worked on the 2018 Farm Bill and is working on this farm bill. The staffer had an intricate knowledge of the bill, and answered all of our questions thoughtfully. What I appreciated most was that he understood many of the issues Ohio specifically faced and what the constituents were asking for. This was something that I felt the staffer in my meeting the day earlier severely lacked. I was drained by this time already; it felt like we had been in D.C. for a week and not three days. Not because it wasn’t enjoyable, but because we had so much to do in such a small window.
I found myself standing inside the Capitol building around 10 a.m. Our group was about to go on a legal tour of the building and learn of the history surrounding it. By far the most amazing room we stood in was the rotunda. This is where presidents who have passed away will lie in state. Massive oil paintings hang on the walls, the ceiling is a masterpiece of itself. The room is truly breathtaking.
We did have to check out earlier in the morning so after the Capitol building tour, we went back to the hotel for lunch and I grabbed my suitcase. I found conversation with fellow members to kill time before we left for Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington is something special. Words do not do it justice. I will do my best. The OFB got us tickets to what was called the Tram. It was essentially a shuttle service that ran every 20 minutes to certain stops throughout the cemetery. The first stop was JFK’s memorial, and it is humbling to even be at this spot but, this isn’t what caught my attention. Instead, it was the seemingly endless rows of white crosses that mark the graves of former men and women who served. I found it almost overwhelming emotionally to see with my own two eyes the sacrifice that has been paid for this country to exist and for freedom to be free for a civilian like me. No photos were taken here by me, I just couldn’t. It didn’t seem right, and I was almost mad at myself for making this a sightseeing tour. I wanted to honor these men and women, not make a spectacle of it. Make no mistake though, being there has had a profound impact on the way I will go about the rest of my life.
Our next stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and I was able to see the changing of the guard. Heading there the guide makes it very known that there should be absolute silence and cell phones should have all sound off. There are also many signs that alert all people of the same thing. Watching the changing of the guard was one of the most profound and moving things I have ever seen in my entire life. There is no talking, no sound except that of the men’s hands interacting with the rifles. I stood and watched, then watched the soldier march on duty for the tomb for at least 10 minutes. No one said a word. It was during these 10 minutes with the silence and gravity of what lies in rest at this cemetery that made me think about one question: Would these men and women who sacrificed be proud of this country we have today? I am still searching for that answer deep within my own soul. This place really puts things into perspective for you, at least it did for me.
After Arlington, we went to the airport to fly home and ran into another congressman coming home as well, and our group had a great chat with him.
I wrote this piece with no real means to an end. I have no means of ever submitting it for any real publication. I merely wrote it for me, to look back, to see how far I’ve come as a person and where I’ve been. However, I decided to share this with my county Farm Bureau and they can share it or not share it. Perhaps it is a terrible piece, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never written anything for anyone besides myself. With that said, understand that this is my account, and more importantly my opinions on the things that happened, not the OFB’s opinion or account.
I want to thank Ohio Farm Bureau and the YAP program for inviting me on this trip. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity you gave me, and continue to give to our members.
I also want to thank all those who have served, are serving, and those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I can never repay you but I want to thank you.
Brad Swavel resides in Marion County with his wife and son, where he farms with his father and uncle in western Marion County. Brad is a graduate of Ridgedale High School and Bluffton University where he graduated with bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. He then became a graduate assistant for the football and baseball teams while earning his master’s in business administration.
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