A Reflection on Ag Health and Safety on the East Coast
For all who have yet to meet me, my name is Megan Schossow and I am a UMASH staffer, second-year graduate student, and grown-up farm-kid. I joined UMASH in the fall of 2017 in communications and eventually became more involved in outreach while I began my master’s at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I am a Gopher through-and-through: I am a two-time University of Minnesota student where I received a Bachelor of Science and am currently a candidate for a Master of Science.
This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for an internship with the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA) as an Agricultural Health and Safety Intern hosted by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC). I was with ASHCA for 8 weeks through June and July where I worked on several projects: showing the economic value of safety in agriculture, attending hill visits with various sectors of agriculture across the country, writing testimony and issue briefs, planning agricultural events, and connecting with agricultural and trade organizations. A personal highlight was my sit-down with National Cotton Council’s Steve Hensley, where we talked agricultural health and safety, rural healthcare, and how good butter is even if it is not good for you.
I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity in the nation’s capital city to develop skills and experiences I have brought back to UMASH and graduate school. Working closely with government relations gave me a new, first-hand understanding of: the political processes, influence in politics, and a national perspective of governance. This was also a great time to dive deeper into how regulation and policy are developed, and how research and advocacy influence this process.
A big part of advocacy is impactful storytelling, which has always been critical to agriculture. Constituents, who were typically farmers, went to the Hill to advocate for agriculture to share exactly how policies and regulations impact the day-to-day activities in agriculture. In my eight weeks, it was evident that showing up matters and telling your story matters. Farmers may be only 2% of the U.S. population, but their advocacy enables them to continue their way of life, advance science, and continually improve the food system.
A big part of advocacy is impactful storytelling, which has always been critical to agriculture.
Ag health and safety has similar challenges across the country, despite variations in terrain, type of agriculture, etc. We experienced challenges with connecting to farmers, emphasizing importance of prevention, getting industry engaged, and more. It was also clear that much policy is reactive rather than proactive. We were also considering challenges of the future: as states become more urban in population than rural, representation in Congress will continue to be influenced by this demographic shift.
The agriculture community has always had a special place in my life, and the agriculture community in DC is truly no different. The number of “grown-up farm-kids” working in agriculture policy is exciting. These are people that understand the issues our agriculturalists are facing, and on a personal level. Agriculture is a unique industry to build a career in: the common ground we have builds networks, teamwork, and relationships.
I feel absolute gratitude for the opportunity to work with ASHCA and NCFC. Kelsey Billings oversaw employer aspects of the internship, engaged me in events and activities on the Hill and around DC, and has been a great mentor. Kelsey is the Director of Government Affairs & Sustainability, Treasurer of the NCFC CO-OP/PAC, and the ASHCA Secretary/Treasurer. Frank Gasperini, President of ASHCA, has been an invaluable resource, connector, mentor, and expert. Frank supported and expanded project ideas, and always had great recommendations for lunch. I look forward to seeing a continuation of the great work ASHCA and NCFC are doing in the name of American agriculture.