South Dakota State University students attend National Ag Day in Washington, D.C. on March 8th | TSLN.com

South Dakota State University students attend National Ag Day in Washington, D.C. on March 8th

Photo by Sarah Sample(from left) Josh Johnson, Ana Schweer, Orin Samuelson, Sarah Sample and Micheal Carlson, during the welcome breakfast.

More than 100 students representing every segment of agriculture traveled to Washington, D.C. on March 5-9, to participate in National Ag Day on Capitol Hill. Among them were five students from South Dakota State University (SDSU) including Josh Johnson, Sarah Sample, Ana Schweer, Michael Carlson, and April Johnson.

The group had the opportunity to visit with members of Congress about agriculture issues. Additionally, the students had the chance to visit with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as former USDA Secretary Clayton Yuetter. Other notable figures who took time to visit with participants included Orion Samuelson, RFDTV; Senator Pat Roberts, senior-ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee; and USDA Acting Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

The SDSU students highlighted their favorite parts of the trip, lessons learned and why National Ag Week is so important.

“I learned a great deal about what will happen with the future of the farm bill, which new trade agreements are on the horizon and about more opportunities to intern in D.C. and internationally,” said Schweer, a dairy science student at SDSU. “National Ag Week is so important to help the U.S. public understand where their food and fiber comes from. It also teaches people about the many opportunities that the agriculture and food industry holds. I couldn’t be more proud to come from a state that supports agriculture. The best thing that I can report back to the folks here in South Dakota is that there are many people who believe in agriculture on Capitol Hill, but there are plenty who don’t. Make sure you are talking to your Senators and Representatives both on the state level and national level about agriculture and how the choices they make or made are affecting you and your family.”

For SDSU agriculture education senior and AFA member Joshua Johnson, the trip to Capitol Hill offered additional opportunities for career growth and personal development. Both April, a dairy science student, and Joshua extended their trip to be a part of the pilot program called Teach Ag in D.C.

“Because we are both ag education majors, April and I got to be a part of this event during National Ag Week,” explained Johnson. “This event included creating an agriculture-based lesson plan and teaching that lesson to the students at a Washington, D.C. middle school. This event was a great way to not only provide the students with fun activities, but a way to start to spread the message of agriculture in an urban setting.”

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“The key message is that by 2050, American farmers will need to increase food production by 70 percent in order to feed a world population expected to grow to 9 billion, all while using the same amount of land area, water, and other resources,” added April Johnson. “I think it is important for us to share what we do on our farms and to encourage people to visit a farm to gain appreciation for the pride that farmers have and the hard work that farmers do every day.”

Agriculture advocacy was a huge emphasis of the trip, and the students took part in training sessions on this topic.

“We participated in media and message training about how to talk to our Congressman,” said Carlson. “We applied this training in our Congressional visits. Advocating for agriculture is very important, since the majority of Americans are disconnected from the farm about three generations.”

“We learned about the importance of active engagement and how to create a positive image for agriculture from various representatives from sponsors and volunteers from agriculture organizations,” added Sample, who recently competed in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. “For me, the highlight of the trip was getting to meet over 100 other young people from across the country that are passionate about having a career in the agriculture industry.”

Students from across the country rallied together to represent food producers at National Ag Day in Washington D.C.; however, the clear message is that agriculture advocacy shouldn’t be limited to one special day in the year. Advocacy should be added to the daily routine to help educate consumers about where their foods come from.