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Penn State Students Talk Issues with Congressional Leaders

Posted: October 13, 2017

Nine Department of Animal Science students visited Washington, D.C. and discussed current issues in the beef industry with Congressional leaders.
From left: Darryl Blakey, Matt Wagner, Kara Zolocsik, Kayce Myers, Reuben Hicks, Ben Dreschel, Matt Kelley, Jenny Groff, Toni Smith, Dr. Dan Kniffen, Courtney Love, Sara Lang and Ann Nogan

From left: Darryl Blakey, Matt Wagner, Kara Zolocsik, Kayce Myers, Reuben Hicks, Ben Dreschel, Matt Kelley, Jenny Groff, Toni Smith, Dr. Dan Kniffen, Courtney Love, Sara Lang and Ann Nogan

Nine Students from Penn State's advanced beef production course in the Department of Animal Science traveled to the heart of our nation, Washington D.C., to engage with legislators on issues that impact the future of the industry.  

The trip, Sept.24-26, was designed to give students the opportunity to be active in the legislative process, understand the issues facing the beef industry, and learn how government impacts agriculture.

Students were accompanied by Dr. Dan Kniffen, course instructor, and Ann Nogan, Executive Vice President of the Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence. Alumnus Darryl Blakey '15, currently serving as a Legislative Staff Assistant on the House Agricultural Committee, met the group to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill and how the House Agriculture Committee serves rural Americans. 

On Capitol Hill students visited with their District Representatives and their staffs, briefing them on the legislative issues and the impact that each issue has on the industry and individual farms. The group met with staff from Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey's office, a Senator from New York, and seven Pennsylvania Congressional offices representing districts from Berks County to Indiana County.

Prior to meeting with Congressional staff, students visited the National Cattlemen's Beef Associations (NCBA) Headquarters' to receive briefings on current topics in the industry as well as an update from USDA APHIS Officials on Foreign Animal Disease programs.

Allison Cooke, NCBA Executive Director Government Affairs, and Sarah Calhoun, NCBA Government Affairs Associate, discussed International Trade, Transportation-Electronic Logging Device (ELD), the 2018 Farm Bill, Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank and Tax Reform. Cooke and Calhoun conducted mock - legislative lobbying meetings to better prepare the students for their meetings on Capitol Hill. 

Kent Bacus, NCBA's Director of International Trade and Market Access, along with the Australian Trade Ambassador, discussed the importance of trade in the industry, current affiliates on the market place and the United States' biggest buyers. Bacus provided the students with background to inform delegates when urging support of international trade for the beef industry and explained the significance of keeping Asian buyers on the radar because they buy specialty cuts such as cow tongue which is not a custom delicacy to the United States.

Kara Zolocik, Dayton, PA, appreciated learning the legislative process, saying, "I realized that there are a lot of issues that I will face as a young producer and I enjoyed learning about how accessible our state representatives are. For them to take time to listen to me as a young producer is important because that showed me that our opinions do matter and they do care."

Matt Wagner, Gettysburg, PA, found meeting with NCBA officials and visiting their headquarters helpful by learning more about the current issues facing the beef industry. "The trip impacted me by showing me that is possible to meet with your lawmakers to help make a difference in the beef industry," he said.

All the students were juniors and seniors who plan to focus their careers in agriculture,  from production and research, to communications, marketing and sales in agribusiness.

This trip was made possible through a grant by the state through the Center for Beef Excellence and National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Without such generous support the trip would not have been possible.

Students spent some free time exploring Washington's D.C. and the National Mall.

By Courtney Love