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Corn Congress from an Intern's Perspective

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 6:00 AM by Iowa Corn

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital to experience Corn Congress. It was not my first time in D.C., however, it was my first time attending Corn Congress and I was excited to learn more about some of the policies that would be put into place for the coming year. While at Corn Congress, I had the opportunity to sit in on the election of National Corn Board members, and listen to the discussions of hot issues in the agricultural industry, especially Waters of the United States.

We arrived in D.C. late Monday morning, checked into our hotel and met up with members of I-LEAD Class VI. I-LEAD is a two year program geared toward those with in interest in agriculture that desire to contribute to a better future for Iowa’s communities and the long-term profitability of agriculture in Iowa. Some members from the Collegiate Advisory Team (CAT) also traveled with us to experience Corn Congress. 

After meeting up with these members we ventured to D.C.Central Kitchen for a tour of their facilities and to learn more about their operation. D.C. Central Kitchen was unlike any soup kitchen I had been to before. They partner with local restaurants to reduce hunger with recycled food. They also provide training for unemployed adults in culinary careers at their facility. This training results into a degree that is not only recognized, but respected across the United States. D.C. Central Kitchen has also been proven as a leader in serving healthy school meals and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise. We would have liked to have a little hands-on experience at the D.C. Central Kitchen, however, they were already booked with volunteers for the day.

I-LEAD and CAT members outside of D.C. Central Kitchen
ICGA Member, Roy Bardole, featured in the
"Meet the Farmer" exhibit at the
Air & Space Smithsonian Museum
Following our tour of D.C. Central Kitchen, the group split up and did some sightseeing before meeting back up and heading for dinner. I used my free time to check out the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. While at the museum, a member of the I-LEAD class showed me an exhibit she had stumbled upon. It was a “Meet the Farmer” cut out display featuring Iowa farmer, Roy Bardole. Mr. Bardole also happens to be a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association! I thought it was great getting a little “taste of home” right here at the nation’s capital. The Iowa agriculture theme stuck with us as we happened upon a banner along one of the walls of the U.S. Botanical Gardens entitled Amber Waves of Grain. Although it was intended to feature their wheat exhibit it was very cool to see that agriculture has its presence in Washington D.C.

I-LEAD and CAT thoroughly enjoyed the
tour of the Nagel Family
Cucumber Operation with Nebraska Corn!
Tuesday was an extremely busy day for CAT and I-LEAD. We joined up with Nebraska Corn for a tour of the Delmarva region. Our tour stops included Wye Angus, the Nagel Family Cucumber Operation, Kenny Bros Grading Station, Arnold’s Vegetable Farm, and Vanderwende creamery for an ice cream treat. I found all of stops along the tour to be very intriguing, especially the stops at produce farms as seeing the mass production of vegetables is not something you see every day here in Iowa. We were lucky enough to see cucumbers being harvested from the field and learned that it was a much different process than harvesting field corn! Following the tour both Nebraska Corn and Iowa Corn met up with the college students from Ohio Corn & Wheat for dinner. A lot of great connections were made and experiences were exchanged , resulting in a great evening of networking and making new friends!

On Wednesday morning, we joined Iowa Corn staff, delegates, and directors for breakfast and then headed to the Corn Congress meeting. We heard from NCGA retiring executive members, observed the election process, and sat in on the voting of policy on hot button issues like Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) and Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

That afternoon we had the opportunity to meet with our Iowa Senators. Both Senator Harkin and Grassley took a few moments to speak with us then opened up the floor to the delegates from Iowa for questions. We also met with Under Secretary of Farm and Foreign Ag Services Michael Scuse and Brandon Willis, Risk Management Agency Administrator. This provided us with the opportunity ask questions, and let the delegates know Iowa Corn’s stance on a variety of issues and ask for their support as we move forward in our efforts to promote the Iowa corn industry.

In the evening, we joined professionals from all across the agricultural spectrum for Capitol Corn Fest. Appetizers and hors d'Oeuvres were served while our group from Iowa split up and took advantage of the opportunity to network with others across the country. This event was held at the U.S. Grains Council and NCGA building’s rooftop patio, which provided a breathtaking view of the Capitol.

After dinner, we caught a trolley for a night tour of the monuments in D.C.  The evening was beautiful and as the sun set it provided a magnificent lighting for viewing the monuments that I had never experienced before. Some of the monuments we stopped at included FDR, MLK, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, and Iwo Jima.
Jefferson Memorial
Just one of the many beautiful pictures I had the opportunity
to take while on the night tour of the monuments!
Our last day in Washington D.C. opened with another round of Capitol Hill visits, this time with our Congressmen King, Braley, Loebsack, and Latham. Again, it really struck me just how much of an impact we could make collectively as the Iowa Corn Growers Association. I was thankful for the opportunities we were given not only to meet with our representatives, but to personally voice our concerns to them.

Following the visits with our representatives, we traveled to the USDA NASS Agricultural Statistics Board and Lockup for an interesting tour of their facilities. Up until that point, I did not realize just how seriously they took lockups and the prevention of information being leaked. We also sat in on several presentations that highlighted the methodology of the statistics they collect and analyze as well as an overview of the commodity groups and where they currently stand.

In conclusion, I found my very first experience at Corn Congress to be an extremely positive one! I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and trying exotic foods, learning the “art” of flagging down a cab, and understanding just how big of a difference an organization like Iowa Corn can make at the national level. This was a great experience that got my feet wet in the policy making process and political world of the NCGA. I am confident that I can take the lessons I’ve learned from this trip and apply them to future experiences not only for the remainder of this summer internship but for the rest of my life!

Collegiate Advisory Team

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