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Penn State Animal Science Students Visit Nation's Capital

Posted: October 31, 2019

Student met with Congressional leaders and discussed issues affecting agriculture and the beef industry.

A trip to Washington, D.C. can be eye-opening, and for students in Penn State's Department of Animal Science Advanced Beef Production class the trip which is part of the class requirement offered a close-up look at how government impacts agriculture.

They not only enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the nation's monuments, but they met legislators and gained a much deeper understanding of the legislative process. Meeting leaders of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) helped them get the most recent information on current issues and added to the information they had discussed as part of the course.

Students were accompanied by Dr. Dan Kniffen, Assistant Professor of Animal Science.

Kniffen said, "This trip offers an excellent opportunity for students to learn to be advocates for the beef industry as they get in-depth information on the status of issues that affect the industry. The chance to meet with their representatives at the Capitol is a highlight and provides valuable interaction with elected officials and their staffs."

Mackenzie Yorlets, a senior from Carlisle said, "This was my first time where I met with elected representatives with the opportunity to lobby on behalf of the beef industry. I think it's important to note that every youth should have this opportunity before leaving high school or college. Recognizing that elected officials are just people too and that they want to listen to what's impacting your life could be so crucial to the youth of our country really making a difference."

A highlight for her was touring the monuments in the evening. "It was fun to see all the different types and kinds of people come together to enjoy United States history and get a better understanding of what our country has endured."

Representative Glenn William "G.T."Thompson, Jr., 15th Congressional District, led the students on a tour of the Capitol. Yorlets echoed the sentiments of many on the trip, saying "The Capitol was absolutely breathtaking. Taking in all the architecture and history that occurred in that building is remarkable. Standing in the same footsteps as some of the most famous US historical figures leaves you speechless.

The students received briefings from Dr. Alecia Naugle, Director of Cattle Health Center, USDA, APHIS, VS and Dr. Brianna Schur, USDA, APHIS, VS USDA Ruminant Health Center, focusing on protecting the U.S. Cattle herd against the threat of a foreign animal disease.

Dr. Jessica Watson, Associate Director of Animal Health Policy, NCBA, gave an update on animal disease traceability.

Allison Rivera, Executive Director of Government Affairs and Lobby Team  for NCBA, explained to students the status of current issues affecting the beef industry helped them understand the possible implications of pending legislation. Kent Baccus, NCBA, spoke about international trade, and helped lead the mock meetings with staff on Capitol Hill, preparing them to meet with their individual Representatives and staff. 

The students were all 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 generous grant by the state through the Center for Beef Excellence.

Those who took the course and participated in the trip included: Nicole Ditzler, Fredericksburg; Katherine Elder, State College; Dustin Gearhart, McVeyTown; Sara Hendrix, Stewartstown; Matthew Kasanicky, Leechburg; Michael Kasanicky, Leechburg; Erin Lang, Glen Rock; Jessi Reichenbach, Bloomsburg; Ronald Ritenour, Acme; Ethan Stas, Latrobe; Emily Supancik, Harford; Madeline Whiting, New Wilmington; Mackenzie Yorlets, Carlisle; and Molly Zona, Clarksburg.