Dvorak and Putnam Selected for the AFA Policy Institute

All members of the AFA Leaders conference cohort posing together.
2022 AFA Policy Institute attendees pose in front of an Agricultural Retailers Association sign

Each year, Agriculture Future of America hosts 40 undergraduate students in Washington, D.C. for the AFA Policy Institute. UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students Libby Putnam and Maddie Dvorak were selected to participate in the institute this year. Their experience was made possible by funds awarded through the college’s VP Promise.

The three-day program provides unlimited networking opportunities for students to connect with legislative representatives, agricultural policy leaders and peers who are passionate about agriculture and policy. On the first day, students were welcomed by kickoff speaker Terri Moore, vice president of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Moore discussed industry trends and the importance of “ground truthing,” which allows farmers and ranchers to share their perspective as those who produce our food to the leaders who run our country.

The next day, students connected with CropLife America at a visit to their headquarters in Arlington, Va. Kelly Bray, chief of staff for CropLife America gave unique insights into agricultural policy. “I personally connected with her as we both lived in DC while working with National FFA,” Dvorak said. “She found that the skills gained from that summer stuck with her throughout her career which was very nice to hear as I just finished that same internship.”

Throughout the three days, both Putnam and Dvorak were able to attend panels of speakers from a variety of lived experiences and career paths, all of whom shared a passion for the future of American agriculture. Speakers included representatives from the National Corn Growers Association and the U.S. Grain Council. Speaking with these individuals allowed Putnam to re-contextualize her own experiences in agriculture. “At the end of the day, agriculture is probably as diverse of an industry as it gets,” Putnam said. “The people in this sector are what make it so special. The sense of belonging that folks in the agriculture space share continues to draw young people like myself in to continue the tradition of helping to provide our nation and globe with food, fiber, and fuel.” Dvorak got the chance to speak with Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator, about the implications of some trade deals to Florida agriculture. “It was surreal getting to connect with someone who has made such large contributions to American agriculture,” Dvorak said.

Overall, the AFA Policy Institute allowed both students to uncover potential career paths and provided them with incredible insight to the world of agricultural policy. “Whether you work on the Hill, public, private, government, etc., it became clear that everyone has a role to play in effective policy-making for our industry,” Putnam said.

The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.


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Posted: December 13, 2022

Category: UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: AFA, Conference, Professional Development, Student, VP Promise

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