Tuesday, Feb 26th was our 3 day in DC and we had a pretty full schedule of events at the Senate office buildings and the House office buildings.  The first discussion we had was with Roger Johnson, former North Dakota Commissioner of Ag and current National Farmers Union President.  Roger shared some of the history of how Farmers Union began, the overall goal was of the organization and a little bit on their stance on certain agriculture issues.  One thing that Roger mentioned is that the move from North Dakota to Washington DC was quite the cultural difference and that DC is full of young, smart, vibrant people.

Our next exercise was led by Eriks about exploring difference and how to use a few methods to further our understanding about things that may be different than we perceived or believed. The methods to guide us through difference first started with describing what we may be seeing, hearing or experiencing followed by the interpretation of those things.  After we have performed the describing and interpreting we can then evaluate our interpretation and look at what we feel and why.  We were posed some questions and we discussed that amongst groups of 3 to practice the method presented.

We then had a presentation by Chelsie Keys and Janae Brady about the work they do with the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Chelsie and Janae are both Senior Professional staff members for Senator Pat Roberts and the Committee of Agriculture.  We heard a lot about the latest Farm Bill and the work that goes on to pass a large piece of legislation, both by committee members and the staff that supports them.  We learned why SNAP, WIC and Food Stamps are part of the Farm Bill, which is to make the bill appeal and have relevance to all districts in our country to help it move through Congress and the Senate.Following our presentation in the Senate building we traveled over to hear about the House side of Agriculture.  We were joined by Keith Jones, Lisa Shelton and Mike Strands, committee staffers of the House Committee on Agriculture.  They shared the work they do on the Committee and the overall structure and functioning of the Committee. They also reinforced how the system works when the House switches control from Democrat or Republican and how the committees then get new members, many with little or no experience in Agriculture.

The next item on our agenda was to meet with the representatives from our own districts.  Representative Colin Peterson’s district covers a large part of our state and is where I spent my time.  Colin expressed some of the challenges with new committee members and the role he felt he had with educating them.  We had a chance to ask questions and provide input on Ag issues in our areas at that time and I found good value in that. Others were able to meet their district’s representatives. Pictured are the delegations meeting with Rep. Hagedorn, Rep. Phillips, Rep. Peterson and Rep. Craig. Thank you to all for taking the time out of a very hectic day in Congress to visit with MARL Class X.

We had a debriefing on what we heard that day and then were challenged that night to find some food that is outside of our comfort zone.  There are many different cultures in the city and many people experienced food that wouldn’t be available back home.  It was interesting to see the variety of cultures people chose and the dishes they had.

Submitted by Matt Tiffany


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