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The AGgregator

From the Field: Ag Day & AFA Policy Institute

Emma Likens is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying agricultural journalism with a focus in PR and advertising. Emma is also an AFA Campus Ambassador and was selected as a delegate for the 2011 and 2012 AFA Leaders Conferences in Kansas City, Mo., the 2013 AFA Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. and the 2013 AFA Animal Institute in Kansas City, Mo.

I didn’t spend my spring break on a beach packed full of college kids recreating a scene from a Luke Bryan song. I didn’t spend it bundled up in a log cabin at a ski resort. Instead, I had the opportunity to represent Agriculture Future of America (AFA) during National Ag Day in Washington, D.C.

National Ag Day is a collaborative effort across the agriculture industry to celebrate American agriculture in all shapes and forms. Ag Day also serves as an effort to increase the public’s awareness of the vital role agriculture plays in our society.

It’s always fascinated me how agriculturalists can pick out their fellows in a crowd. We hadn’t even made it from the airport to the National 4-H Center before the Nebraska students had bonded with the Mizzou students while attempting to navigate D.C.’s public transportation system. With the help of a few kind bus drivers and D.C. residents, we found our way.

At National 4-H Center we met up with students sponsored by AFA, 4-H, FFA and NAMA to begin our training to prepare us to meet with our state senators and representatives to chat about Ag Day. Highlights of our training on Sunday and Monday included the Student Idea Exchange, Media and Message Training with the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, Practice Makes Perfect Session, and the USDA Agriculture Policy and Regulation Roundtable.

We spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill putting our training into action. The other students from Nebraska and me were able to meet with both of our senators and two of our three representatives. As a state, we’re blessed to be represented on the national level by politicians who understand the importance of agriculture to Nebraska and the nation. We were able to share the positive message about agriculture and Ag Day, as well as ask about which issues they’re currently working on related to agriculture and ask how we can help.

National Ag Day closed with a luncheon, after which students from the other organizations departed and the AFA Policy Institute began. I’ve attended AFA Leaders Conference before and had high expectations for the Institute but I wasn’t quite prepared for the level of excellence we encountered. We met with Senator Mike Johanns, visited the U.S. State Department, listened to Congressman Aaron Schock at the industry dinner, ate breakfast with the Secretary of Agriculture and participated in the AFA Policy Institute Forum on Agriculture Trade, Regulation and Policy.

My entire Ag Day experience was one no beach or ski slope will ever be able to compete with. I met so many wonderful students and industry representatives, whom I’m looking forward to keeping in contact with and working with in the future. I have a new appreciation for the work done on Capitol Hill, much of which is done by staff who receive little recognition for their dedication. Special thanks to the Ag Day sponsors, including Farm Credit, who made this inspiring opportunity possible. The intangible takeaways I have from Ag Day and the AFA Policy Institute will remain with me as I finish my formal education and venture into the real world.

Also, thank you to all of America’s farmers who’s hard work deserved to be celebrated year round, not just on National Ag Day. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”