Young leaders from around Nebraska recently visited Washington D.C. as part of a trip sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board to encourage young people to take an active role in the agricultural industry.

One of the nine young leaders on the trip was Liz Ruskamp of North Bend who attended the four-day trip to learn about corn policy development, and to explore American agriculture outside the Midwest.

Along with Ruskamp, the nine-member leadership team included: Catherine Jones of Bellevue, Morgan Leefers of Syracuse, Brent Lemmer of Atkinson, Nate Lundeen of Minden, Michael Dibbern of Cairo, Alex Voichoskie of Wilcox, Heather Ramsey of Bruning and Wesley Wach of Hayes Center.

“Being from Bellevue, I’ve always been interested in agriculture, but didn’t have a lot of experience with row crops and agricultural policy,” Jones, a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said. “I appreciate the Nebraska Corn Board’s investment in young people who are passionate about the agricultural industry. I know I will take much of what I learned this week with me as I pursue a master’s degree and future career in an ag-related field.”

Half of the group arrived to D.C. early so they could take part in Trade School offered by the U.S. Grains Council. This hands-on workshop helped the leadership group better understand the importance of global ag trade and provided participants with updates on current and potential trade agreements.

On July 16, the group visited a variety of farms specializing in seafood, grain, fruit and vegetable production. The leadership team then spent time in Washington, D.C. and visited with USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach.

As the week progressed, the group participated in Corn Congress, a multi-day policy development event organized by the National Corn Growers Association. During Corn Congress, participants had time to meet with Nebraska’s congressional leaders and national agribusinesses, such as the Nature Conservancy, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the Waterways Council, Inc. and the Environmental Defense Fund.

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“As a young farmer, this opportunity has greatly helped me understand the intricacies of ag policy,” Dibbern said. “This experience has reaffirmed my belief that we in agriculture need to be at the table as policy is being shaped. It’s really easy to fall into the day-to-day routine of the farm, but we need to make our voices heard at the national level.”

Participants of Nebraska Corn’s leadership group were selected after completing an application process. This is the seventh year the Nebraska Corn Board has sponsored the leadership group.

For Ruskamp, the trip is the second time she has traveled to a new city for a program sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board, as last summer she completed an internship in St. Louis with the National Corn Growers Association.

As the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s spring semester winds down, seven students will soon start their summer internships supported by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

In her position at the National Corn Growers Association last summer, Ruskamp worked with the organization’s Soil Health Partnership program.

“They kind of partner with different farmers and research farms and study soil health to figure out which ways are best to improve soil health and sustainability of the food supply,” she said.

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