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Penn State Animal Science Students Meet with Congressional Leaders

Posted: November 6, 2018

As part of their Advanced Beef Production Class, students traveled to Washington, D.C. and learned more about issues facing the beef industry and how to effectively communicate with elected representatives.
Penn State Advanced Beef Production students visit our nation's Capitol.

Penn State Advanced Beef Production students visit our nation's Capitol.

When Penn State Department of Animal Science students take the Advanced Beef Production Class in their Fall semester, they learn about issues facing the beef industry and they also make a trip to Washington, D.C. where they visit legislators and learn how government impacts agriculture.

The course and Washington visit offer a unique opportunity for them to gain an understanding of the legislative process through visits to the Capitol and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) to meet leaders in the industry.

Students were accompanied by Dr. Dan Kniffen, Assistant Professor of Animal Science, and Ann Nogan, Executive Secretary for the Pennsylvania Cattlemen's Association.

Kniffen said, "This trip is valuable for students to have the experience of speaking with their representatives in the nation's capital and learning to be advocates for the beef industry in particular and agriculture in general. They definitely come away with a deeper understanding of the complexity of the regulations affecting them."

Penn State Alumnus Darryl Blakey '15, who is a Legislative Assistant on the House Agricultural Committee, met the group and discussed the 2018 Farm Bill and how the House Agriculture Committee serves rural Americans. 

Allison Rivera, Executive Director of Government Affairs for NCBA, explained to students the status of current issues affecting the beef industry, including transportation and agricultural labor, and helped them understand the possible implications of pending legislation.

They also received briefings from Dr. Alecia Naugle, Director of Cattle Health Center, USDA, APHIS, VS.

While at the NCBA headquarters, students received an update on environmental issues from Scott Yager, Chief Environmental Counsel, and Mary Thomas Hart, Deputy Environmental Counsel, NCBA. These NCBA leaders helped students prepare for their visits to Capitol Hill by holding mock legislative lobbying meetings.

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, and eight Pennsylvania Congressional offices representing districts across Pennsylvania.

Danielle Beck, Director of Government Affairs, NCBA, led a lively discussion on "fake" meat.

The students were all juniors and seniors who plan to focus their careers in agriculture, from production and research, to communications, marketing and sales in agribusiness. They were appreciative of the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the issues and to discuss them with leaders.

Jaclyn Thompson, Pulaski, PA, said, "I really enjoyed learning the issues that are circulating in D.C. With many of us going into production agriculture upon graduation, it was great to meet with the representatives/staffers and be able to talk to them as experienced students. I think the trip was very beneficial overall, especially preparing us to discuss hot topics affecting everyday agriculture with some people that may not completely understand the issues."

Nicole Hoffman, Catawissa, PA, said, "I really enjoyed learned about current issues and meeting, talking with, the people who work closely to get bills passed to support us."

For Ashley Gillock, Belle Vernon, PA, the trip was valuable in the interactions it afforded. "Being able to see a different side of the agricultural industry was very helpful in understanding how legislative processes are able to help us, as students, become more powerful as leaders as we move into our careers in this industry. Learning more about current issues and ways in which we can interact with our legislators was extremely worthwhile."

Zane Merkel, Jonestown, PA, concurred. "Working with leaders and legislators that are involved in the industry brought to light many issues that can be hidden in legislation but play large roles that affect agriculture as a whole."

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 enjoyed visiting national monuments in the nation's capital on the day prior to their briefings and visits.

Those who are pictured include -  Front row, from left: Ashley Gillock, Jaclyn Thompson, Carrie Cramer, Nicole Hoffman, Molly Hensley, Shelby Dean, Darryl Blakey, Ann Nogan; Center: Carlos Ortiz, Dr. Dan Kniffen, Laura Przyjemski, Annabelle Kindle, Emily Heilinger, Rachel Stoltzfus, Hanna Imgrund, Luke Sonnen; Third Row: Benjamin Patterson, Lucas Watson, Josh Beam, Cody McLafferty, Branden Decker, Zane Merkel.