Eight college students from five states have completed the inaugural Ag Voices of the Future program hosted in Washington, D.C. The program, sponsored by Valent U.S.A. and the American Soybean Association (ASA), provides an opportunity for young people to improve their understanding of major policy issues that impact soybean farmers, the importance of advocacy, and careers that can shape agricultural policy. The class was held July 10-13, in conjunction with the ASA Board Meeting and Soy Issues Forum in Washington, D.C.
An application process for the program was initiated in the spring, and the following students were selected to participate in this year’s program:
• Corbin Bell, Missouri• Kelsey Cassebaum, Alabama• Mason Gordon, Indiana• Evan Jackson, Kentucky• Will Nalley, Kentucky• William Raftis, Illinois• Kelsey Smith, Illinois• Abigail Steinkamp, Indiana
“More and more, regulations that impact the ag industry are being directed by legislative and regulatory leadership many generations removed from the farm,” said Jeffrey Smith, industry affairs manager for Valent. “We believe the best way to ensure sound regulation is to encourage more young leaders with a practical understanding of ag production to consider careers based in Washington, D.C. Valent appreciates the opportunity to partner with ASA to identify, develop and direct these future leaders to have a positive impact on the issues facing soybean farmers and the crop protection industry.”
The new Ag Voices of the Future program is designed to give young people, with a connection to the farm, an education on major policy issues and advocacy, and encourage these future leaders to consider careers within agriculture associations and industry, as well as government regulatory and legislative positions.
“It’s important that young people have an understanding of the important policy issues that directly impact the productivity and economic well-being of our farms and the soybean industry,” said ASA President Ron Moore, a farmer from Roseville, Ill. “ASA appreciates Valent’s support of this valuable program that helps to cultivate future voices for agriculture in Washington.”
Photo: 2017 Ag Voices of the Future Class visits USDA. Front row (from left to right): Mason Gordon, Kelsey Smith, Evan Jackson and Kelsey Cassebaum. Back row (from left to right): Corbin Bell, Abby Steinkamp, Will Nalley and William Raftis.
The three-and-a-half day program was packed with activities and valuable networking opportunities including the chance to hear from ASA and Valent’s Washington representatives and a Senate Ag Committee staff member about their current positions and past career experience. The group also attended an ASA policy issues briefing, Capitol Hill visits with farmer-leaders, a visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a presentation from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representative, and a meeting at CropLife America’s office for additional education on talking with consumers about modern agriculture.