by Alexander Fried, reposted from Land O’Lakes
I love politics. My favorite holiday? Election night! My television is split between CSPAN, Fox, MSNBC, and CNN as the red and blue results light up my living room like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Politics have always been my passion, which is why I was so excited to travel to Washington D.C. with the Global Food Challenge emerging leaders to learn about agricultural policy this July.
As a Land O’Lakes emerging leader, I’ve come to learn agriculture brings security and prosperity through food. We met with Lindsay Plack, government affairs director of the United States Global Leadership Coalition, an organization working hard to share that message. She told us how she leverages the power of their diverse coalition of defense, development, and diplomacy leaders, including every living past secretary of state, several Fortune 500 company CEOs, and other influential leaders, to promote the importance of the international affairs budget and development projects.
I also understand the importance of decisions being made with U.S. agriculture in mind in Washington. We visited the United States Department of Agriculture and met with Lillia McFarland, lead for the USDA New and Beginning Farmers Programs, who was enthusiastic about hearing why we chose to get involved in agriculture especially with one team’s project to address youth’s interest and awareness in agriculture. We also visited United States Agency for International Development and the Feed the Future team where we met people from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and U.S. African Development Foundation and learned about the broad approach to the planning, implementing, and value of international agricultural development projects.
The effort that goes into these projects continues to surprise me. Congress authorizes and funds USAID to create and carryout a global food security strategy that leverages the strengths of the US government with non-government organizations including non-profits, companies, and universities to achieve real results around the world. On our visits, we were armed with first-hand knowledge of how this process works on the ground. Paired with a fiery passion about food security, we made our case about maintaining international funding and food security programs to Congressmen and Congresswomen. As we discussed our trip to Africa, sharing the importance of food security and what challenges agriculture faces, they were curious to hear more about our work at Land O’Lakes with the Global Food Challenge.
Throughout our travel, there has been one consistent theme; agriculture is the bedrock of society. In D.C., when you walk into our Capitol and look up at the ceiling, you’ll see stone engravings of corn husks and flowers. Our founding fathers intended farmers to help determine policy. In developing nations, the first economies to emerge are almost always the ones with strong ties to the farm. When there’s a drought or food prices surge, society falters.
For one reason or another, I grew up reading and analyzing policy, realizing the extent to which government affects my personal life is not unique. This is why I chose to study international affairs and economics in the heart of Washington D.C. at The George Washington University. I care about politics because I recognize that as much as the public bemoans Washington’s games, we all end up as winners and losers. If you care about something, play the game. For myself, I plan to be an advocate for agriculture on Capitol Hill or on campaigns.
I don’t think my fellow interns will ever share my obsession for politics. However, after spending a week in Washington and seeing how farmers both in the U.S. and abroad are affected by these decisions, I have no doubt they’re leaving with a greater awareness and appreciation.