Zwilling Participates with IFB Delegation in Marketers to Washington Program
Champaign County Young Ag Leader Brad Zwilling recently returned from an Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., and graciously gave us an overview of the opportunity.
Brad was one of 17 IFB members addressing top issues with government agencies and industry experts. The Marketers to Washington trip was a brief, action-packed experience lasting Tuesday to Friday.
“Due to the timing of our visit, the hours involved were not long since Congress wasn’t in session,” said Zwilling. “Many of the staffers are gone during this time as well. We typically started at 8 or 9 a.m. and were finished by 5 p.m. except for Friday morning for the lockup, when we started at 6:30 a.m.”
Zwilling said the IFB delegation met with many people while in Washington. Most were associated with USDA.
“Wednesday morning, we met with Larry Elworth, Agricultural Counselor to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” said Zwilling. “He updated us on the RFS mandate waiver as well as the EPA proposed guidance document that is to remove “navigable waters” from the Clean Water Act. We made him aware of our stance, but it was hard to tell if our points were carried on.”
For more information on the IFB’s stance on the Clean Water Act, visit www.ilfb.org This website provides great information including the following statement: “The success of the Clean Water Act (CWA) over its 37-year history has been its important and environmentally sensitive areas within their borders while, at the same time, preserving the authorities of state and local communities over their own land and water use planning.
Farm Bureau is fighting to: Define the “Waters of the United States;” Protect the integrity of the CWA; and maintain state primacy on total maximum daily loads, land use planning and nonpoint source programs.
In addition to meeting with the agencies and experts mentioned above, the IFB delegation was joined by Michael Alston, Deputy Administrator for Insurance Service for Risk Management Service.
“Alston was very helpful in addressing the questions on reinsurance and audits,” said Zwilling.
Other hot topics discussed during the trip included “one-stop” crop reporting after this year’s drought and the insurance claims that will be filed. “With ‘one-stop’ crop reporting, you can report your crop acres at either the FSA office or the crop insurance office and your information will be shared among the necessary agencies,” said Zwilling. “They’re still working on the process but they are getting closer.”
The delegation participated in the release of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Crop Report. This allowed participants to learn how crop production estimates are collected and reported to the Secretary of Agriculture. NASS statisticians are literally locked inside a building and not allowed to leave until the crop report is released and signed by the Secretary; hence, the term “lock-up.”
Very few of us will ever be able to experience a “lock-up” but Brad’s play-by-play follows:
“The lockup was the highlight of the trip. We arrived at the USDA building at 7 a.m. and had to put all of our electronic devices with internet capability in a box and then sign a waiver that we had none of these documents on us. Our id’s were checked by a guard, and we entered through two sets of doors that open the opposite directions so no signals or information could be passed through. We were then briefed on how the process worked. We were briefed on the crop report at 7:40 a.m. Then we watched the signing of the crop report by the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and she and the Chief Economist for USDA were briefed on the report. The signing is significant because this shows the trust in the people as well as the process of the report before the report is opened.
“People with NASS that put together the numbers for the crop report come in about 3 p.m. the day before and go through the same process we do; they put the numbers together from survey information and they have to stay in the lockup until the report is released. They tell a story that a Coke delivery person talked the guard into letting him take Coke products in that part of the building one time; When he went to leave, he found out he should have stayed out in the first place because he wasn’t allowed to leave until the report was released. Someone had to move his truck because it was parked on the street.
“The only interaction with the outside world is through the guard. If there is a medical emergency for someone “locked up” the guard will contact help and he will travel to the hospital with that person to make sure he doesn’t talk to anyone until the report is released. In addition, there is a press room that the media uses that is locked down from any outside communication. They see the report, type up their analysis on computers and when the report is released at 8:30 a.m., central time, someone flips a switch and all of the reports are released at once.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t all work and no play for the IFB delegation. According to Zwilling, the group had dinner at Founding Farmers Restaurant and enjoyed an evening bus tour of the monuments. Founding Farmers is owned by genuine, hardworking, American family farmers.