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Agriculture Policy Class Presents Its Own Farm Bill to Congress

Students Research and Analyze Legislation Proposed in House of Representatives and U.S. Senate

December 11, 2013

As the rest of the class looks on, Wilmington College Agricultural Policy Students, from the left, Shannon Bywaters, Bailey Hefner and Kevin Carr present the class' version of the Farm Bill to Sherry Stuckert, caseworker for U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers' Wilmington office.

As the rest of the class looks on, Wilmington College Agricultural Policy Students, from the left, Shannon Bywaters, Bailey Hefner and Kevin Carr present the class' version of the Farm Bill to Sherry Stuckert, caseworker for U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers' Wilmington office.

The lack of a comprehensive Farm Bill to pass the U.S. Congress gave the Agricultural Policy class at Wilmington College a golden opportunity — to create one themselves and present it to U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-15th District).

As part of the class’ final examination, some 30 students and their professor, Dr. Corey Cockerill, made the trek to Stivers’ Wilmington office Tuesday (Dec. 10) morning to present the document.

The class is comprised predominantly of students majoring in agriculture with a sprinkling of those representing other academic areas. They spent the fall semester researching and analyzing the legislation proposed in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

While Stivers was in Washington D.C., his local caseworker, Sherry Stuckert, asked questions and took detailed notes on the students’ concerns during their hour-long visit.

Stivers said the students’ initiative and passion for their positions impressed him after he learned about their project.

“I would like to thank the Wilmington Agriculture Policy students for taking the time and effort to create their own version of the Farm Bill,” Stivers said.

“I look forward to reviewing their plan and learning more about their ideas and thoughts on what direction Congress should take on this legislation,” he added. “It is always good to see to the next generation of policy leaders sharing their perspective on the important issues.”

While the House and Senate are at an impasse on the Farm Bill, the students employed give-and-take and compromise as they successfully crafted their own.

Cockerill divided the class between members of the House and Senate. The students gained additional insight into the role of agriculture in Ohio. Indeed, agriculture and the food industry contribute more than $107 billion to the state’s economy annually and one out of every seven jobs in Ohio is connected to growing, processing or distributing food.

She said the students didn’t dwell on their differences; rather, they built upon areas in which they found a common ground.

“Even though we don’t agree on everything, we were able to come up with a consensus and pass the bill,” said junior Brianna Knisley, one of the non-agriculture students.

Kevin Carr, also a junior, has a farming background. He said a major area of agreement among all the students is the idea of conservation. “Production and conservation are linked,” he said. “Conservation is a very important aspect of farming.”

He supported a soil and water conservation drainage strategy in which subsidies would support the installation of field tile. Carr found support for that measure from junior Ellen Short, an environmental sustainability major, who came to gain a greater appreciation for the crucial role of so-called corporate farms in feeding an ever-growing world population.

“Both sides came to an agreement on conservation,” Short said. “Even the most liberal and conservative persons agreed on this. If we don't pay for in through the Farm Bill, we’ll end up paying for it in other (likely more expensive) ways.”

While the non-agriculture students were outnumbered, Short was impressed with how receptive the agriculture students were to learning what she had to say.

“They’ve (the agriculture students) been so awesome in hearing our viewpoint,” she added. “It’s definitely opened my mind that people can be open to discussion, that people really want to find the best solution and do what’s best for everybody.”

Cockerill said they titled the bill the “Reconnecting Food & Farm Act of 2013” to reflect the concept of consumers gaining a better appreciation for where their food comes from, and promoting better access to nutritious food.

“It’s the idea of farmers benefiting from food programs and food programs benefiting from farmers,” she said.

Short, a veteran of two WC-sponsored trips to Washington D.C. where she learned how to lobby elected representatives, said she expected the Congressman to be amenable to receiving the students’ Farm Bill.

“We were not voted in by constituents, but I think Rep. Stivers will be impressed and like some of our ideas,” Short said. “I think some students will be shocked at how receptive his office was of us. We walked out of there thinking, ‘Wow, they really listened to what we had to say.’”