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Day 8 Advocacy and an Evening Capitol Stroll

Forming relationships within the industry is a key component to success both in Sacramento and Washington D. C.  Our first business in Washington D.C. began with an overview on agricultural advocacy at the United Fresh Produce Association.  Tom Stenzel, President and C.E.O., John Hollay, Gov’t Relations, Mollie Van Lieu, Nutrition Policy and Mirian Wolk, Member Services brief our group current legislative issues including Immigration reform nutrition policies and trade.  This provided insight on how policy is formed and how coalitions are used to strengthen the agricultural industry. With the current onset of the COVID-19 our schedule meeting with Washington D.C. Mayor Muiel Bowser was rescheduled due to a press conference related to the discovery of two confirmed cases of the virus in the city.


The class convened at the Cannon house office building to meet with Mr. Randy Russell of the Russell Group. Randys’ firm represents agricultural and food interests in both the legislative and regulatory environments. Randy emphasized a strong leadership lesson he encouraged all of us to embrace, titled the “Quantum Leap.” He urged us to look within our own professional and personal lives and pivotal moments where we could keep moving on our current trajectory, or where we could discern to make a quantum leap to the next level. This was a challenge readily accepted by our class and we move throughout the remainder of our Ag Leadership journey.

Following our meeting with Randy, we were able to interact with four DC Exchange alumni on a panel discussion, moderated by Darlene Din, Class 35. Bill Richmond – Class ‘18, Dr. Parveen Setia – Class ‘16, Hema Subramanian – Class ‘16 and Kate Zook – Class ‘19 shared their experiences in both their professional careers and from their trips to California. Bill recounted his time with Jack Vessey, Class 34, and meeting with Jack’s employees in the Imperial Valley at 5 am before lettuce harvest began during his tour, commenting on the work ethic our farmers have to produce our food. Kate Zook shared her moving experience visiting the devastating Camp Fire areas of Paradise and meeting with the Noble family whose apple orchards were spared when all of their farm buildings and equipment were lost in the fire. Eating the apples left by the fire was a humbling and moving experience. These experiences help shape their decisions in making policy recommendations and provide a human connection to the problems and issues they are trying to solve in their daily roles within their respective agencies.

Our afternoon concluded with a lively panel discussion from four alumni of the White House Fellows program. This prestigious program was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and Mike Campbell – Class 3, is among their distinguished alumni. The White House Fellows program is one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. Our panelists recounted their experiences within the program and how they have taken the leadership lessons learned in their respective agencies throughout other career paths they have taken since their program. This was a unique insight into a special area of public service, we were privileged to experience.

Our dinner experience was a highlight of the evening at The Monocle, a hotspot for political officials and guests due to its proximity to the Senate offices and its tenure as one of D.C.’s oldest restaurants. Some of our members even met Senator Amy Klobuchar as she was dining near our group.

Our evening was capped off with an extraordinary tour with Congressman Jim Costa of the U.S. Capitol. Our tour included time on the House Floor, Speaker’s Gallery and Statuary Hall. Congressman Costa shared stories of the history of significant statues, artwork and symbolism within the Capitol. He shared private areas for House members, including stories of private offices where Harry Truman learned he would be the next President of the United States and where crucial conversations were had on controversial issues. This tour lasted late into the evening and culminated our first official day in D.C. with the importance of the history and significance of the work being done in this city. We are extremely fortunate to be immersed in this experience and this profound experience has not been lost on any of our fellows. We are excited for our next few days and embracing more of the D.C. culture as we learn more about the work of the various agencies within our government.

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