Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to join the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) in lobbying for our farmers at both the state and federal level. During both trips, I was able to meet with legislators, create meaningful connections with many new people, and experience how our government works in person. Working with WAWG to explain the importance of our Washington-grown wheat was an eye-opening experience I won’t forget.
As I packed for Olympia at the end of January, I was completely unsure of what to expect. Sure, I’d been told the schedule, but I had never been to Olympia before, and this trip would be a completely new experience for me. Looking back on it now, there was no reason to be nervous, and this trip was an amazing learning process and a deep dive into what WAWG is all about. Some goals for this trip were to pass out cinnamon rolls, meet with legislators, and inform others about Washington wheat and the impact it has on every one of us.
Serving cinnamon rolls at the Capitol was certainly no small task. Each roll had to be separated and placed on its own tray to hand out. All morning long, we passed out the cinnamon rolls and explained what WAWG was all about. While some just wanted a free treat, there were many curious people eager to learn more about growing wheat across the state. This served as a great way to explain what WAWG is, how wheat is grown, and to inform them on how their food gets to the table.
The 2023 Legislative Session is going to be a big one for agriculture. A few of the bills we discussed with lawmakers could have a monumental effect on agriculture across the state.
A seasonal exemption to overtime pay, voluntary riparian buffers, and a wrongfully implemented cap and trade surcharge to fuel bought by farmers are just a few of the main topics I was given the opportunity to discuss while in Olympia with WAWG. Each of these topics would profoundly affect Washington agriculture, and not necessarily for the better.
As I prepared for our first meeting with Rep. Leonard Christian, I was unsure of what exactly to expect. That quickly changed as he welcomed us in and was eager to listen to what we had to say. That first meeting was a very positive experience that left me with ideas of how I could contribute to the conversation and relate back to how the proposed laws would affect my own family’s farm.
Throughout the rest of the trip, I was able to use my own experiences to explain the direct effects of these laws in a personable way that showed how they truly affected the Washington farmer. By using my personal experiences, I was able to convey our message to state legislators in a clear and concise manner.
Our trip to Olympia definitely felt like a successful one. Those we spoke to were receptive and eager to hear what WAWG had to say. During that trip, I learned more about being an effective communicator and taking action. Only about a week after I returned home, I hopped on a plane to Washington, D.C., to do it all over again, this time at the national level.
If you had told me a year ago that I was presented the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital to speak on the importance of agriculture, I would’ve never believed you. Walking through the Capitol buildings in person was such a surreal experience and so much different than just seeing the buildings in the news or online. This trip was truly a unique experience, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to go.
A few of the main points we discussed while in D.C. with WAWG were about improvements to the farm bill, trade and transportation. While there, I was able to meet with Rep. Rick Larson, Rep. Dan Newhouse, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Sen. Maria Cantwell. Each of these meetings led to great discussions on our topics and how they’d possibly be addressed.
As I look back on those very busy weeks, these experiences are ones I’ll value throughout my life. I learned lots about the importance of advocating and educating others and also gained much more insight on how WAWG takes action to serve our farmers. I hope to take the information and skills learned along these trips with me through college and my career to give my all in what I do and make an impact on those around me.