By Riley Hiscocks
Nathan Behrends, senior in agricultural studies, was one of 10 students chosen nationwide to attend the Ag Voices of the Future program in Washington, D.C., earlier this summer.
The program, sponsored by the American Soybean Association and Valent U.S.A., took place July 11-14, and is aimed at exposing young people to major policy issues and advocacy within agriculture.
“I got connected with the Ag Voices of the Future program through the Agriculture Future of America Organization. The opportunity came about through the AFA Scholarship program,” Behrends said. “I applied for this program because it seemed like a unique opportunity to grow and learn a new aspect of agriculture I know little about - agriculture policy. I knew it would be an opportunity I would regret not doing if I didn’t at least apply.”
During his time in Washington, D.C., Behrends had the opportunity to visit with staff from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, visit the Hill with the Iowa Soybean Association, and meet with a senior staff member for the Senate Ag Committee.
“I was able to learn the ins and outs of agriculture. I learned from a multitude of agriculture professionals working in the industry in D.C., and I was given the opportunity to visit each Iowa Senator and Representative in our nation’s Capital with the Iowa Soybean Association,” Behrends said. “During our day on the Hill, we advocated on behalf of soybean farmers in Iowa, expressing our voice toward current and future policies affecting the soybean industry.”.
Behrend’s experience in the program has broadened his perspective on agriculture and given him an opportunity to see first-hand how important the government is in the success of agriculture.
“One of the biggest takeaways from this experience was realizing how important voicing our opinions to government officials is in order to ensure proper legislation is passed for continued success in the agriculture industry,” Behrends said. “Additionally, I learned the importance of organizations like the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association. It is critical, as an industry, that we support organizations like these to sustain future success in agriculture.”
With new knowledge and experiences, Behrends returns to Iowa with a new desire to use his education and future career to provide his stance on agriculture policy and to ensure the industry continues to prosper for years to come.
“As a young agriculturalist, my voice is just as important as anyone’s in the industry. Being the future of the industry, our voice must be heard as young professionals in agriculture. Our stances are what create change in the industry and will determine the path the agriculture industry follows,” he said.