Issues, Positions, Interests, and Values were the theme of day four in Washington D.C. and we enjoyed a broad range of activities which challenged our ways of thinking and understanding of diverse rural and agricultural issues.

An early morning started with a group discussion around the topic of Issues, Positions, Interests and Values. It was a good time to talk with other MARL members and learn about the values that have shaped them as people and professionals.  Starting the day talking about values and what has shaped us, was a perfect segue into the organizational meetings later in the day.

After the group discussion, we traveled to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with an introduction to the facility by Kathryn Hill from their Office of Communications.  She was a firecracker and we enjoyed getting to know her on a personal level including her international life abroad and opera-singing career. She gave us a quick tour of the North building, which is considered the Administrative Building.  Warren Preston, Deputy, Chief Economist; Dave Miller, Director of Reinsurance Division of the Risk Management Agency;  and Dr. Robert Holland, Associate Director of Operations at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) gave presentations on their departments and their roles at the USDA. It was an opportunity to ask questions about USDA programs, the Farm Bill, and the programs they administer.

In the afternoon, we met with professional organizations with a broad range of viewpoints and issues.  These included the Environmental Working Group, Cato Institute, Land Trust Alliance, Good Food Institute, the International Trade Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Animal Ag Alliance, the American Farm Bureau, Northern American Meat Institute and World Wildlife Fund.  The visits were a powerful reminder of being open to other viewpoints and asking questions for clarification and understanding. 

I was honored to be with a team of colleagues who visited the International Trade Commission.  We were met by a vibrant External Relations Director and a team of International Trade Commission staff who work on agricultural issues.  I was happy to see a team of women in front of me who shined in their roles.  I was also excited to connect with a staff person who worked on alcohol issues and we began the dialogue on international wine challenges.  I left the meeting with a new understanding of an important organization in the United States with information and expert power and a new contact valuable in the wine industry.  Score!

We wrapped up the day with a debriefing at the American Farm Bureau Headquarters and then a social hour with the Washington, Indiana, and South Dakota rural leadership programs.   What an honor and privilege it was to have this opportunity to connect and network with a fantastic group of leaders across the United States. 

We ended the day dividing in groups for dinner together at a variety of restaurants around the city. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the different agriculture industries in their states and their jobs and roles in agriculture.

Submitted by Krista Kopperud


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