April 14, 2008 Thanks to a generous grant from a private foundation, the National Beef Ambassadors recently attended the Spring Legislative Conference conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, where they received first-hand experience in representative government. Each of the beef ambassadors spent a day with their state cattlemen's delegation, calling on their state's members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. They also made various agency visits within the Department of Agriculture.
Ambassadors met privately with staff from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Both agencies emphasized how impressed they were with the caliber of student they see in the ambassadors, and encouraged them to consider a career with USDA in the future.
Students participating in the conference made these observations:
On Friday we met with USDA employees to tour USDA buildings and learn about future career opportunities. We were personally introduced to some of the areas of government that deal with our everyday lives in agriculture as well as those who help to regulate it, stated Beth Wood of Wyoming.
Jennifer Rassler of Pennsylvania observed, It was extremely interesting to hear from the leaders of the various departments and agencies during the small group meetings about what is currently underway in their units for agriculture.
I felt like I was actually making an impression not only to the representative that I was speaking to, but also making a difference for all of the cattle ranchers who love and support me back home, California's Michelle Wiggley said. I felt like I was able to really give something back to them by being their voice on the Hill.
Caitlin Williams of Arizona remarked, "During our trip, we were involved first hand in the legislative process working with our senators and representatives, as well as being educated on pertinent government issues that the beef industry is facing. Additionally, we were able to meet and speak with the Secretary of Agriculture. I felt as though I was there to make a difference as a spokesperson for the beef industry as a whole."
I enjoyed learning about the different dimensions that affect agriculture policy, ranging from the Food and Drug Administration to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Making our voice heard and letting our elected officials know what is important to us really does make a difference, stated Leticia Varelas of New Mexico.
These future industry leaders left Washington, D.C. with a renewed interest in our nation and a stronger belief in the democratic system, which will benefit them as they rise to upcoming leadership positions in the beef industry, added Carol Abrahamzon, manager of the National Beef Ambassador Program.
The National Beef Ambassador Program seeks to provide leadership training for the young beef ambassadors ages 17-20. The program was started and is managed by the American National CattleWomen, Inc.