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I-LEAD Class 8, Session 4

Posted on August 3, 2017 at 4:06 PM by Iowa Corn

* This blog post provided by I-LEAD Class 8 Members Elyssa McFarland and Allyson Parman


I-LEAD class 8 traveled to our nation’s capital for session 4. Upon arrival to D.C. the class got right to business by meeting with Mike Holland and other staff at the Monsanto Government relations office. We learned about how policy impacts ag businesses. This was an especially engaging discussion as international trade and adoption of technology plays a significant role in American agriculture.

Up next, we had the honor of visiting the Vietnam Embassy and meeting with Mr. Tien Le who gave us an overview of agricultural trade in Vietnam. He provided an overview of how they are currently utilizing US agricultural products and some of the limits that farmers there experience.  Weather and access to technology were among the key issues discussed. The class had many questions about ag business as well as the culture in Vietnam as we prepare to travel there in March of 2018 as a part of our international mission.

Monday evening we enjoyed meeting other young leaders from Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio at a networking reception. We then went on an evening bus/ walking tour of monuments with our new friends. We had time to reflect on the history of our great nation, pay respect to those who have fought for our country, and see the beauty of the city lights.

After a jam packed first day in the district, we ventured out to the Delmarva Peninsula on Tuesday. We learned about agriculture in the area by visiting many farmers coordinated by our amazing tour guide, Jennifer L. Rhodes of University of Maryland Extension.  We met Jennifer at our first stop, Harris Seafood.  There we learned from Jason Ruth the history of oyster, clam, and crab harvesting on the Chesapeake Bay and the modern technology allowing for continued production using aquaculture. How oysters start out as small specs on a shell to mature oysters that are harvested, shucked, and some even end up back in Iowa at your local Hy-Vee. We saw an evolution of equipment similar to what you can see when you walk on a farm in Iowa. From the old barn with a two bottom plow to the heated shop and 16 row planters. We saw hand implements that used to be used to get clams of the bed of the bay all the way to tanks and recycled shells to create a more efficient way of growing oysters.

Next we arrived at cucumber field where harvest was in full swing. Hannah Cawley taught us how cucumbers are planted, what crop protection tools they utilize, and finally how time sensitive cucumber harvest can be. Warm days will plenty of rain means that cucumbers only are in their ideal size range for a few hours! Just like back in Iowa they truly have a family farm. Hannah pointed out which harvesters and trucks were operated by which of her family members. In addition, to the mechanical harvesting, the family also coordinates a local effort to hand harvest what the machine misses or any crops that don’t fit the ideal size for the cannery. These misfits are then distributed to communities that are in need of fresh produce.

Before stopping for lunch, we visited an alpaca farm to learn about the fiber industry. The alpacas were very friendly and the class was surprised by how soft they are! The farmer (name?) discussed the differences between the alpaca fiber industry in Peru compared to the US. We checked out their farm store to see how the fleece from those fuzzy alpacas are spun into yarn and made into cozy socks, scarves, and sweaters.

We enjoyed a lunch of fried chicken and potato salad at Caroline County 4-H park before we toured Mason Farms organic grains. The class learned from Steve Kraszewksi the similarities and differences between organic and conventional grain production.  We continued our discussion of grains at the Schmidt Farm.  Jennie Schmidt taught us about how her family expanded their grain farm to include vegetable crop operations and a vineyard.

We ended our day with ice cream from Councell Farms. We had a great conversation about ag tourism and the United States Grains Council with Chip Councell. It was great to end our day with a conversation about how to Chip has been able to serve the industry as a farmer and got some tips on growing pumpkins as well!

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the farmers for taking time to share their knowledge and experiences with us and the Jennifer Rhodes for her hospitality and expertise!

After two days traveling around Delmarva and meeting with passionate farmers inside the beltway, it was time to swap our boots for heels and suits and head to the Hill for some lobbying. Day three of the session began with the resolutions session of the National Corn Growers Association Corn Congress. We listened to delegates add and edit resolutions that will be written into the policy book for NCGA. Before getting down to business, we also had the opportunity the listen to delegates give speeches in hopes to be elected to the National Corn Board.

During our time with I-LEAD, we have gone through lobbying training and this spring, had the opportunity to put those skills to the test at our state capitol, but now it was time to exercise those on an even larger scale – on Capitol Hill. Iowa Corn did an excellent job preparing us to go the Hill – they had packets for each group with background information on the Representative whose office we would be visiting and paired us up in groups of four or five Iowa Corn members – including as least two ‘veterans’ of lobbying on the Hill. We were tasked with talking about two issues – ethanol and ag trade.  This lobbying experience was different - as we were meeting with non-corn producing states– and even had appointments with Members that may have voted against many of the issues that we work very hard on. For example, some of us were meeting with members who had voted against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and against North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The fourth day of Corn Congress – we made our way back to Hill to finish up our meetings with D.C.’s ag staffers. The meetings were very productive and most staffers took the time to listen, walk us through the views of his or her office, and even asked to receive follow-up information pertaining to the issues we had discussed. After finishing up our final meetings, we took a short walk to the Japanese Information and Cultural Center (JICC) to get our first taste of Japanese cultural and what we are to expect upon visiting the country on our international mission. We met with Julia Ford who led us through a number of exchanges, greetings, and gave us a brief, yet informative overview of life in Japan. It was extremely helpful to have Julia walk us through the culture that she is so passionate about. The Japanese culture is so different from ours and very grounded in respect and honoring your elders and I-LEAD class is very excited to experience it firsthand next year.  Shortly after our visit at the JICC, we wrapped up and headed back to the hotel to check-out and take some time to do some last minute sight-seeing in our nation’s capitol.

This session was eye-opening to how diverse agriculture really is and it doesn’t matter where you are – farmers remain the same – passionate about what they do and willing to share their story. Additionally, our time on the Hill proved to be another tool that we can add to our toolbox in order to be successful leaders and advocates for the future of our industry. We want to thank everyone who took the time to welcome us on to their farms and into their offices.

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