2024 Leadership Farm Bureau class in Washington, D.C. (photo provided by Rachel Nettleton)

By Rachel Nettleton, Executive Director, Kern County Farm Bureau 

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to join my classmates of the 2024 Leadership Farm Bureau class in Washington D.C. Our days were filled with a whirlwind of activities designed to equip us with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the intricacies of agricultural advocacy on the national stage. From policy briefings and advocacy training to meetings with key decision-makers, each moment was a chance to deepen our understanding and sharpen our advocacy skills. Throughout the trip, our schedules were packed with engaging sessions, interactive workshops, and informational briefings that broadened our perspectives and honed our abilities. 

On the first day, we engaged directly with leaders at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meeting with Deputy Secretary, Xochitl Torres Small, and other agricultural officials allowed us to convey the unique challenges and opportunities facing California farmers and ranchers. These interactions were important for building relationships that will serve us well in the future. To close the afternoon, we had the opportunity to walk the halls of Capitol Hill alongside Congressman Doug LaMalfa, which was a surreal experience that brought the legislative process to life and set the tone for the impactful days that followed. 

On day two, as we met with Capitol representatives, the significance of our collective voice and the potential impact of grassroots advocacy became evident. These conversations, particularly focused on the Farm Bill, underscored the transformative potential of cooperative engagement and informed decision-making in driving agricultural policy forward. Interacting with representatives such as Congressman Jim Costa and Congressman Doug LaMalfa showed the importance of articulating the priorities and concerns of California agriculture on a national level. 

In addition to these important discussions, our day was further enriched by a meeting with the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture where we had the opportunity to hear from Dr. John Newton, the Chief Economist for the committee. His insights into the economic forces driving agricultural policy provided valuable context and reinforced the importance of evidence-based advocacy in our efforts. This session underscored the need for informed and strategic approaches when advocating for agricultural interests. 

To close out the day, we visited the Canadian Embassy, which highlighted the global dimensions of agriculture and the importance of international trade and collaboration. These discussions emphasized the interconnectedness of our industry and the necessity of cooperation across borders. It was a powerful reminder that agricultural issues are not confined to national borders but are part of a global network.  

This is just a glimpse into the series of events we experienced last month. Our experience in the nation’s capital was a blend of education, advocacy, and relationship-building that laid the groundwork for meaningful policy influence for our agriculture communities. As our time in Washington D.C. came to a close, I felt a sense of gratitude for the experiences and connections created during our trip. I left feeling empowered and inspired to advocate for the interests of California agriculture, both locally and nationally. This trip was more than just an educational experience; it was a call to action to be a dedicated and informed advocate for the agricultural community. 

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