Students learn about ag innovation to address world needs

By Sylvia Kantor, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Agricultural innovation in response to a changing world was a key topic of discussion when three Washington State University students visited with national policy leaders and lawmakers recently.

Jacklyn Bennett, Brennan Hyden and Tyler Sabin were among 40 students selected from across the country to attend the Agriculture Future of America Policy Institute.

Rep. DelBene tweeted about her visit with three WSU ag students.

“The people we met with stressed what a great time it is to be involved in ag – there’s so much variety in the field now,” said Sabin, an organic ag systems major. “With innovations in biotechnology and crop production, and with population growth, there’s really a need for more people with education in agriculture.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse spoke about being at the forefront of an ever-changing industry.

“It’s really important to stay up to date on new developments,” said Bennett, who is double majoring in agricultural education and strategic communications.

“It’s also important to talk to consumers and educate the public about how food is grown – that it’s safe, humane and ecological,” she said. “We need to be transparent with consumers about how we produce food, to let them know we have the best intentions for people, animals and the environment.”

The students met with legislators and legislative staff members, toured USDA offices, attended panel discussions and saw some of the nation’s most iconic memorials and monuments. They were exposed to a range of topics and policy issues from labeling foods that are genetically modified to growing food in space.

“The USDA is going to begin working on producing food in space for astronauts,” Sabin said. “It adds a whole other layer of complexity to agriculture.”

Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene met with the students and shared her thoughts about agriculture and groundwater pollution, the importance of representing different stakeholders and making sure farmers are treated fairly.