Listening to senior Haylee Zwick energetically recount her recent trip to the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum, you wouldn’t guess that since her return, she’s been working around the clock to get caught up on class work. Zwick spent four days in D.C. attending sessions at the forum, networking with students, stakeholders, and the movers and shakers of the ag world.
Zwick shared a few highlights about her first day in D.C: touring the USDA building, meeting members of the World Agricultural Outlook Board, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the Economic Research Service, touring the lockdown location where the Crop Conditions and WASDE reports are put together by economists and statisticians, and a trip to Agricultural Secretary Purdue’s office.
“I love his focus on the younger generations and the future of agriculture. It was an exciting experience to talk with Secretary Purdue about our concerns for the current agricultural industry and to realize that now is our time to make a difference,” shared Zwick.
As for her future, the experience solidified her plans after graduation. Zwick truly enjoys making a direct impact in the lives of farmers through her role as a commodity merchandiser. She hopes that her second internship this summer with Archer Daniels Midland will lead to a full-time position in order to continue her work in the field.
“In merchandising, I get to go out to the farms, meet the families and see what a difference I can make and how I can best help them,” shares Zwick. “Before I go to Capitol Hill one day and try to pass all these laws, I need to understand what farmers truly need.”
Other pressing needs that came to the forefront for Zwick while at the forum: understanding the need for improvements in this country’s infrastructure and being ready for the rise of global agriculture, which is opening doors for the American industry and growers to expand their operations into countries like Brazil and Africa.
“They need us to bring industry investments, equipment, and insurance to them so they won’t have to start from the ground up,” shared Zwick. “Our generation will be challenged with this task, but I think that we can make it happen due to our generation’s increased international exposure and our growing support for bi-partisanship and working together for the right reasons.”
The conference both expanded her horizons and allowed her to meet many new contacts in the field closer to home.
“I now know people in probably two-thirds of U.S. states,” said Zwick as she patted the pile of business cards on the table. “Through my internships, conferences, and LinkedIn, I’ve been able to connect with people from all over the country who play a role in agriculture. Maintaining these relationships are sure to make an impact on my career for years to come.”
Zwick encourages other students to apply this coming fall for a place at the 2019 USDA Forum. All agricultural-related majors are welcome to apply, including animal, food, and environmental sciences.
“For students thinking of working at USDA, in public policy or in a government position, this is a real leg up.”
She added that she feels fortunate to have found a field that she is passionate about that has ever-expanding options for her career and personal path.
“The conference was an eye-opening experience,” said Zwick. “I have big shoes to fill. There are expectations for the future of agriculture and I am motivated to be a part of that journey.”
But first, she has to write follow-up emails to all the new contacts she has made.