Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25 Visit to Shepherd Elementary

Friday morning was drizzly and cool. The group headed several miles north of the White House to Sheperd Elementary, where prior SDARL classes have presented for many years. It is a time that both groups look forward to. Members talked about life in South Dakota, agriculture, and about where our food comes from.

Friday afternoon, class members went out and about in groups of two or three to visit farm and animal welfare organizations, government watchdog groups and environmental agencies. At the end of the afternoon the class came together to review the lessons of the day.

The week was rounded out by taking in the Capital Steps show, political sattire skits put together by primarily former legislative staffers.

Saturday's flights are scheduled for departure at 9:45 ET with everyone expected back in Sioux Falls and Rapid City mid afternoon.

Class members Susie Odden & John Schallenkamp

Class member Sarah Jorgensen

Class member Sal Roseland and Rebecca Rink

Class members Clint Ridley & Kari VanderWal

Class member Tyler Melroe

Class member Noelle Harding

Class member John Schaeffer

Class members Connie Groop and "Dr. Dirt" aka Joey Hanson

Class members Ron Brownotter & Todd Mortensen

Class member Corey Eberhart

Class member Tammy Basel

Class member Jon Nelson & John Kopriva

Rae Jean entertains Pre-K children

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, Feb. 24 USDA Ag Forum

 We started the day off with a wonderful opportunity to participate in the USDA Ag Outlook Forum.  Featured speakers included Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee; Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack and last but not least former President Bill Clinton.

It was refreshing to hear Secretary Vilsack proclaim that the "safest bet in America is our farmers".  Secretary Vilsack's passion for agriculture was very evident. 

Former President Clinton focused on his Global Climate Change Initiative and our need to educate the rest of the world on how to feed themselves.

We would love to send  former President Clinton some Beef Bucks!

Next we headed to the National Association of Counties beautiful headquarters where they shared with us how they assist counties with a myriad of issues and needs.

We ended the day with a spirited conversation with the Environmental Working Group, the group that among other things, posts farm subsidies online.
Sarah Jorgensen, Todd Mortenson and Noelle Harding

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

Former President Bill Clinton addressing the Ag Outlook audience
Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Ag Secretary  and
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack
USDA Ag Outlook Forum

Leadership training at Nat'l Assoc. of Counties

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 USDA & Capitol Visits

SDARL Class 6 toured Wednesday February 23, USDA. 

FSA/Farm loans
We learned that FSA has a limited budget, and funds are only being used for opperating loans. $343,000,000 approved farm ownership loans are on hold. 

Overview of Global crop analysis
During the early 70's, the USSR had crop failures unknown to the World and dramatically increased commodity prices. To level the playing field the US began estimating foreign crop production in 1979.
We also learned that China is having a major drought, and the wheat outlook in their country looks grim.
45% of their production is currently under extreme, severe, moderate drought.

FSA/Farm Bill
Lynn Tjeerdsman, a South Dakota native, now assistant deputy administrator for farm programs.
86% of the farm bill is for food assistance, and 14% is for ag.

Climate Change 
This division of USDA intergrates information to other divisions. He gave us books that outlined the new plan for 2010.

Staff from
Senator Johnson
Representative Noem
Senator Thune
These representatives expressed with us the issues of  2011. Ethonal, EPA, Budget, Farm Bill, and Government shut down. Sounds like we will have a 2008 Farm Bill. Ethonal still need to be taught to the new members of congress.  They also gave us a tour of the Capital.  This was a great expirence for Class 6. 
We are meeting up with another Ag group from Washington state tonight for supper.

Glen Crawford and Sal Roseland

Mary Ellen Cammack

Class VI in USDA

Class at USDA - Williamsburg Room

USDA Visit



Legislative Briefing at the US Capitol

Sen. Thune's Policy Advisor, Brendon Plack

Capitol Tour

Capitol Tour

Capitol Tour

Lunch at Executive Dining Room at USDA

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - American Bankers' Day

Class in Lafayette Park on walking tour with John Blanchfield

Today we went to the American Bankers Association (ABA) and were met by John Blanchfield and Seaver Sowers.  John and Seaver are ag banking specialists for the ABA. They guided us through an opening discussion outlining history and operations of the ABA The ABA was founded in 1875 and is an advocate for the banking industry.

Dr. Keith Leggett, Senior Economist for the ABA, identified 3 key messages he wished to communicate. 
  1. The worst (of the recession) is over.
  2. Sustained recovery is 5-6 years away.
  3. Stimulus and budget deficit are issues that cannot be ignored.
Current problems in the housing industry will provide significant challenges to the economic recovery.

Dana Brooks, Senior VP for the National Milk Producers Federation, spoke of proposed legislation that would provide a margin based insurance program for the dairy industry.  This would replace the current priced based system.

Our next presenter was Dana Peterson, CEO of National Association of Wheat Growers.  She informed us that wheat provides approximately 20% of the world's consumed calories and is grown in nearly every country.  She spoke of the timeline for developing new wheat varieties, which is 10-13 years and most of the seed research is done by land grant universities.

Colin Woodall was our next speaker.  He is a lobbyist for the National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA).  EPA regulation was his primary concern, specifically centered around proposed dust legislation, ammonia concerns and watershed runoff.  He also spoke of trade, technology and transportation issues facing the beef industry.

We broke for lunch at noon, which was kindly provided by the Farmer Mac organization.

Dallas Tonsager, an Olham, SD native and Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development, discussed his current responsibilities resulting from his recent appointment by the Obama administration.  Rural Development provides small communities with access to capital for a variety of projects such as hospitals, housing and public utilities.

Katy Ziegler-Thomas, representative for Growth Energy, spoke of her role as an advocate for the ethanol industry. She stated that out of 187 current ethanol lobbyists in Washington, D.C., only 16 were lobbying in support of the industry.  This has made it difficult to win support for pro-ethanol legislation.

Chandler Goule, VP of Government Relations for the National Farmers Union, spoke of the organization's support for the proposed GIPSA legislation as well as uncertainty regarding a possible new farm bill.  He spoke passionately about the NFU's unwavering support for renewable fuels and his frustration regarding the recent budget cuts affecting agriculture.  Mr. Goule stated that agriculture received 22% of the proposed budget cuts despite being only 2% of the federal budget. 

Next up was John Doggett from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).  The top 4 concerns of NCGA were:
  1. Support for ethanol.
  2. Trade agreements with Korea, Columbia and China.
  3. Uncertainty regarding the farm bill.
  4. Regulatory actions proposed by the EPA.
He spoke of the shortage of qualified legislative aids with agricultural knowledge and the importance of public service from our young people back home.

Brian Dierlam gave a very interesting presentation regarding Cargill's view of current ag issues.  Animal welfare was a major concern for the company and a driving force in their decision to allow the Oprah show access to one of their beef processing facility.  He spoke of the positive response Cargill received from the show and how he believed it accurately represented their operations.  He challenged the class to guess what was the only part of a beef carcass that was taken to the landfill after processing.  After many guesses, the class conceded and was told it was the..... tail switch!

Blachfield and Sowers closed the day with several fearless predictions. 
  1. There would be not one, but several, pending government shutdowns over the budget issues.
  2. Interest rates will be going up.
  3. The Republican presidential nominee will be relative unknown.
  4. Stability of mid-west agriculture will "drive the new farm bill policy bus".
  5. No new farm bill in 2012 but rather an extension of the 2008 farm bill.
  6. Money does matter and ag is not exempt from possible budget cuts.
  7. The USDA will get skinny and close several county offices in favor of more web-based operations.
The final activity of the day was a walking tour of Lafayette Square by local historian, John Blachfield.  Class VI would like to thank John Blanchfield, Seaver Sowers and the American Bankers Association for their hospitality and continued support of the SDARL program.

Thank you,
Travis Ellison and Mike Reecy

Dr. Keith Leggett, Sr. Economist, American Bankers Assoc.

Class at ABA

Class at ABA

Dan, Dallas Tonsager, Under Secretary, Rural Development, Codi Mills

Katy Ziegler-Thomas, Growth Energy

John Blanchfield and Seaver Sowers of ABA

Head Chef at Smith & Wollensky with Michelle and Rae Jean

Class VI at White House

Dan, John and Seaver


Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011 "Presidents' Day"

You couldn't find a more appropriate city to spend Presidents' Day than in our nation's capitol, Washington, DC.

The group headed out of the hotel early, departing at 6:00 a.m. on way to the metro to catch the Amtrak train northeast bound for Wilmington, Delaware, home to the world headquarters of DuPont, parent company of Pioneer Hi-Bred. For most members, this was a memorable trip, having never ridden on an Amtrak train before.

After 90 minutes on the train, we were greeted in Wilmington by a DuPont bus, where it transported us to Pioneer.

Lisa Schwartz, Operations Specialist, welcomed the SDARL class to DuPont. Enno Krebbers, Intellectual Properties Research scientist explained the long and interesting history of Dupont, and subsequently, Pioneer. Gunpowder was their first endeavor, followed by dynamite in 1880. They are perhaps best known, for their discovery of nylon in 1934. Electronics work began in the 1970's. They are also in communications, among many other sectors.

Today the largest portion of their sales comes from agriculture.

The group made three stops in their soybean transformation area. To say they were impressed, is an understatement. The class watched in awe as a scientist demonstrated the use of a gene-insertion gun.  Perhaps the most amazing stop was when class members donned 3D glasses and looked at cell layers utilizing a electronic microscope, typically employed in the medical research field.  They also showed footage of soybean cyst nematodes at work.

Before heading back to DC, the group enjoyed a great Chinese lunch and wrapped up with sharing their observations about Washington, DC and what they had just seen.

Members enjoyed an evening on their own, in preparation for a very long Tuesday, looking forward to ten speakers addressing us while American Bankers Association plays host.

Until next time this is Joey Hanson, Class VI Member

Members at Pioneer Hi-Bred, Wilmington, Delaware

Riding the metro

On the Amtrak Train towards Wilmington, Delaware

Class in soybean  transformation area of Pioneer Hi-Bred

Rae Jean with Girl Scouts at Amtrak station

Class in Entomology Lab at Pioneer Hi-Bred
Members at Mass
Basilica at Catholic University
Class at Lincoln Memorial

Sunday, February 20, 2011

With the group safely in DC, Sunday was primarily a free day to spend getting to know our nation's capitol, a city of about 600,000 citizens. A group attended mass in the morning at the largest basilica in the western hemisphere.

Three members conducted their small group visit early, having lunch with a Humane Society of the US farm animal department director. All agreed it was time well spent finding much common ground. Josh (the HSUS person) declared the three SDARL people "all stars" and appreciated their comments and opinions.

Others toured many of the 18 Smithsonians, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetary, Newseum, or walked the mall, viewed the White House, etc. An evening tour showed them all the major monuments.

The weather was sunny and topped out around 55. We sympathized (truly) with our families back home who were battling snow and wind.

A fun evening at a Mexican restaurant completed a great day.

Monday will find us up and out of the hotel by 6:00 a.m. on route to catch an Amtrak train to Wilmington, Deleware, where the group has been given a very special opportunity of touring the world headquarters of DuPont, along with their ag experiment station and research facility.

Monday's report and pictures to be posted late Monday night.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Follow Class VI as they Visit Washington, DC Feb. 19-26, 2011

Visit DC through the eyes of Class VI members, as they depart on a week-long study seminar of our country's government and policy setting processes. The group is due to arrive in DC Saturday night. Postings will begin on Sunday.