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Learning from the Good Guys - the DC Cowboys
By: Jeralyn Stephens
From the outside looking in, Washington D.C., is perceived as a corrupt and heartless city, where people will do just about anything to get ahead. How do I know this? I felt the same way before I left my Texas town to move up North.
The month prior to starting my internship in Washington, I was constantly warned, "Don't let those politicians turn you greedy." I will admit I received mixed signals when I told people I would be interning in Washington. However, I would simply respond, "I won't let the city corrupt me and anyways I will be working for the good guys, people advocating for the cattleman."
In fact, when I informed my family and friends that I would be interning for the National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA), I witnessed a bit of relief in their eyes. This relief stemmed from the great NCBA reputation and from them understanding that fellow beef advocates would be educating me, rather than politicians.
Before I moved to Washington, D.C., I had my opinions and misconceptions about the work conducted on Capitol Hill. I expected the city to be ruthless and embody a 'kick you while your down' atmosphere. I also expected the NCBA office to be more consumed with political agendas than the policy issues important to NCBA members. Well if you are wondering, my perceptions were incorrect.
It's true. Washington is not Texas. Even though is not as heart-warming as my hometown, the city is not as cruel as you may think. Specifically, the agricultural world in D.C. is a tight knit and supportive group. I expected the fight against regulations to be an "on your own" competition but it is amazing to see agricultural groups support and work together to combat issues.
My time here in Washington has been a wonderful experience where I have learned why the presence of NCBA on Capitol Hill is important for cattle producers. The Washington D.C., team works continuously to ensure cattlemen from all over the country have a voice on the Hill. They work each day to battle the top issues, so producers can remain at home checking cows and feeding the world. Issues such as potential dust regulations, the proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed livestock marketing rule and ethanol could negatively affect producers. However, the team here in Washington keeps a hard thumb on lawmakers and the administration and is always the first to respond when issues harm the beef industry. Each day there are phone calls being made and letters being sent to administrators, elected officials on the Hill and even President Obama opposing rules that could affect the producer's pocketbook. Being a NCBA member, I can appreciate the work that occurs here because if it were not for this team's continuous efforts, the future of the beef industry would be in jeopardy.
As a Capitol Hill outsider and a young producer, I was hit with a heap of information my first week here. The first thing I learned and I appreciate the most is that NCBA's presence on Capitol Hill is unique and highly respected. It is unique in the sense that the people fighting are currently or once were beef producers. Their fights are personal.
The staff is not only highly educated on the issues, but they are passionate. It is the combination of passion and knowledge that puts NCBA on a level that should make all members proud. The remarkable reputation of NCBA was refreshing to me and continues to be refreshing when members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff regard NCBA as a knowledgeable, reputable organization.
As a NCBA member and worker, I am proud of the successes and efforts of NCBA because I have witnessed them firsthand. I have witnessed progress in resolving trade issues and Environmental Protection Agency concerns because the DC staff always has their boots on the ground constantly meeting with members of Congress so the cattlemen and women can rest easier at night. This internship has given me an exclusive viewpoint that allows me to rest easier at night because I know the beef industry is in good hands with the NCBA?s Washington D.C., office.