Trip shines light on legislative process

By Samantha Holling
2024 Washington Wheat Ambassador


In January, I was given the opportunity to accompany the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) to Olympia where we lobbied for our wheat farmers at the state level. Throughout this trip, I was able to meet and converse with legislators, have an in-person experience on how our government operates, and meet so many people. These interactions allowed me to make new, beneficial connections with the people in the agriculture industry.

I have done a lot of traveling the past four years for various things like sports and FFA. Through these experiences, I always knew what was going to happen. All the events were laid out, and I knew exactly what to be prepared for. However, this trip to Olympia was different. I had no idea what to expect. I had talked to past ambassadors, Shaley Tiegs and Angelina Widman, in an attempt to get a sense of what I was going to encounter on this trip. These conversations certainly helped to get me more prepared than I was before, but still no certainty. They gave me the main layout of what the trip was all about, passing out cookies, meeting with legislators, and informing and educating others about what WAWG is all about.

Attending Olympia days with WAWG was certainly eye opening. I had never been to Olympia before, so seeing that, in itself, was an exciting experience. The first morning we passed out beautiful frosted sugar cookies in the shape of a wheat bundle while we explained what WAWG was all about. People were drawn to these stunning pieces of art laid out on the table, which gave us the perfect opportunity to inform them all about the wheat industry. Topics that were commonly covered were how wheat is grown, what WAWG is, and how their food gets on the table. While some individuals were just there for a free cookie, some were actually invested in learning more about wheat. I loved this opportunity to interact with people and inform them about the wheat that is grown across the state and on my family farm.

The 2024 Legislative Session was a shorter one, but of much importance for agriculture. Bills were discussed with legislators that could have an immense impact on the agriculture industry beyond Washington’s borders. The lack of fuel exemptions for farmers, preserving the lower Snake River dams, and a seasonal exemption for overtime pay were a couple of the main issues that were discussed. All of these topics have had a huge impact on our agriculture industry in Washington.

On the way to my first meeting with Sen. Perry Dozier, I was still unsure of what to expect and was nervous. I felt much better when he started talking, and I realized he wants to hear what we have to say. I got the opportunity to talk about where I was from, my family farm, and what I do as a wheat ambassador. Sen. Dozier also gave me some advice about how I can contribute when talking to other legislators in terms of talking about experiences on my family farm, and how these bills can affect it, in both positive and negative ways.

Throughout the rest of the meetings, I learned so much. I became more comfortable and confident discussing these topics with legislators. I learned how to connect my personal experiences on the family farm to these bills, and how I have seen their effect directly. It was truly insightful to see that, in some cases, we were educating the senators and representatives about the bills and how they affect wheat production across the state. It was also encouraging to see their interest in the topics, and how they wanted to help us in our mission. Overall, the meetings were successful. Those we spoke with were not only eager to hear from us, but receptive to what WAWG had to say.

Our trip to Olympia was insightful to say the least. Before, I was unaware of how the legislative system operated. Now, I know not only the workings of the system, but how to make an attempt to create a positive impact on the system that has the ability to assist our farmers in everyday operations. Advocating for agriculture is something I am extremely passionate about, but this was an opportunity to influence state representatives and senators that I had no idea I could ever be influencing. Seeing the way that members of the association presented agriculture to the legislators was very beneficial to me.

This was an experience I will value for the rest of my life. I expanded my knowledge on agriculture, and got the opportunity to develop my communication skills through advocating and educating others. WAWG also showed me the importance of advocating for agriculture by educating those who are not as aware of the way these bills can affect farmers. I also gained more insight on how WAWG serves our farmers by taking assertive action on making a positive difference. I will take the knowledge acquired through this experience and apply it in an attempt to make a positive impact on those in my life.