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Day 10 – Congressional Meetings and Supreme Court

Today was a whirlwind of meetings on Capitol Hill that put our logistical skills to the test. The class started in the Cannon House Office Building where we met with Dennis Nuxoll of Western Growers, Congressman Devin Nunes, Congressman Doug LaMalfa, and Congressman Jim Costa. We then quickly transitioned to a meeting in the Hart Senate Building with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s agricultural staff, rushed to the Capitol steps to meet with Congressman TJ Cox, then over to the Russell Senate Building to meet with Senate Agriculture Committee staff, toured the Supreme Court of the United States, and ended the day with a lovely finale dinner at Clyde’s of Georgetown. It was an amazing day that tested our patience and provided phenomenal insight into the complex process of how DC shapes policy.

Dennis Nuxoll, Western Growers Vice President of federal government affairs, educated us on important issues before Congress impacting agriculture. He additionally provided us a template on how to interact with members of Congress and issues to discuss during our member meetings.

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA 22), and California Agricultural Leadership Alumni (Class 29) talked to us about water issues effecting the Central Valley and the life long relationships he developed in Ag Leadership. We ended the meeting discussing the security of our upcoming elections and potential foreign interference.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA 1) entered the room jovially, then moved into a very frank discussion of the current Ag Worker Immigration Bill and discussed bipartisan efforts to move the bill.

Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA 16), who we thanked greatly for our night Capitol tour, visited to discuss the day to day happenings of a Congressional member fighting for water issues facing the Central Valley. The Congressman had just come from a meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee, and his comments were very insightful.

Senator Diane Feinstein’s agricultural legislative assistant, Joe Petrzelka, walked us through what it means to be a staff member for a senior California Senator. We discussed water policy, immigration policy, and the leadership style of Senator Feinstein. Our conversation was insightful and engaging.

Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA 21), who we met on the outside steps of the Capitol, discussed his leadership journey from a career in mechanical engineering to a life of public service. He also described the work life life balance being a Congressional member, and his passion for healthcare given his wife is a healthcare professional.

The staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee brought us into the most beautiful room of the day, where committee hearings take place, and agricultural policy is made. Katie Naessens and Claire Borzner, professional staff members for the committee, discussed the bipartisanship of the committee and how the committee makes decision “around the dining room table.” We saw this as a model of how governmental decisions regarding agriculture should be made.

The United States Supreme Court was inspiring and the message inscribed on the building is a reminder of where the class has been and the relation back to our Civil Rights experience in Atlanta – “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Finally, and certainly not least, the class would like to thank Ian LeMay (Class 48), President of California Fresh Fruit Association, for his countless hours to ensuring Class 50 had a meaningful DC experience. He spent time mentoring and educating the class, and we all thank him greatly. Ian you are amazing!!!

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