This week we interviewed Warren Leadership Fellows Daniel Radford and Kortney Smith, who spent this summer interning with North Carolina Farm Bureau learning about public policy and agricultural advocacy. Daniel is majoring in Animal Science and Agricultural Science with a minor in Agricultural Business Management at NC State University; Kortney is a rising senior at NC State studying Agricultural Education.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
Kortney: My favorite part of the internship was flying out to Washington, D.C. with Linda Andrews and Mr. Wooten for a few days. I had never been to D.C. so it was a great experience. It was really eye-opening to see the major differences between how things are handled at the state level versus on a national level and I may have been inspired just enough to possibly take my future career back there!
Daniel: My favorite part of the internship was being able to expand my network, and learning more about the legislative process. Everyone at Farm Bureau has been very welcoming and willing to help in any way that they can, and I am very thankful that they made me feel welcomed this summer. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and building these relationships.
D: Since I was new to working with policy, it took some time for me to learn how the whole legislative process works. Jake and Paul spent many hours mentoring me and Kortney on how everything works at the General Assembly. On the first day, they spent time explaining how to look up bills and discussed how bills move through the General Assembly. I can definitely say that I would have been lost without them, but with their help, I understand the process a lot better than I did when I started.
K: The most challenging part of the internship was definitely learning how to navigate the General Assembly website and understand how bills were moving and what was important in each. Bill language can sometimes be very backwards and confusing, so we had to learn how to follow through all of the citations and correctly interpret what that particular provision meant. After the first few weeks though, we began to get the hang of things! We didn’t always interpret correctly, but we made drastic improvements from our first day!
What was the best advice you received?
K: Without a doubt, the best advice I received was to always ask questions. You can either sit and stay confused about something or ask questions and get a better understanding. There were so many times that I had no idea what was happening, but when I asked questions, things always made more sense and I could actually follow along and get more out of a particular experience.
D: Have an open mind and be open to new opportunities. Being open to new things has allowed me to be able to get the most out of my experience here at Farm Bureau. Walking into my internship this summer, I can definitely say that I did not know what to expect. This summer has been one I will always remember. As my internship is coming to an end, I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have been given while being a part of the Farm Bureau team.
What is one thing you learned from the internship that you’ll use in the future?
D: One thing that I will definitely use in the future is the information that Jake, Paul, and many others have taught me about the legislative process and Farm Bureau. They spent many hours explaining how legislation gets enacted and the importance of each step of the process. Before and after each meeting, they always took the time to meet with me to discuss the purpose of the meeting and followed up with any questions or explained in greater detail what was discussed. My time spent at the General Assembly and Farm Bureau has allowed me to become a better advocate for farmers and the agriculture industry.
K: While this wasn’t an explicit lesson, observing the Farm Bureau staff made me truly realize how important it is to work together within your program as well as within your organization as a whole. Farm Bureau is an extremely well-respected organization and a great place to work, and I believe that comes from the family atmosphere that is expressed when you walk in the door. Wherever I end up in my career, I will always carry that with me and try my best to recreate it. It has made a world of a difference in our internship!
What advice would you give to future interns?
K: Besides advising them to ask lots of questions to get a better grasp on what is happening, I would encourage them to network. This summer, I have met and spoken with so many people that could play a major role in my future career paths. There are so many opportunities to share your story and leave an impact with someone that could be helpful in the future! Put yourself out there and don’t necessarily hide behind your hosts!
D: The most important advice that I would give to future interns is to network and make connections every opportunity that you get. I have made valuable contacts this summer including legislators, Farm Bureau leaders, farmers, and several others. I am sure that these individuals will serve as a valuable resource as I complete my college career and search for job opportunities.
What’s something new you’ve learned about Farm Bureau from this experience?
D: Starting out my internship, I did not realize all of the programs that Farm Bureau offers for the public to get involved. This summer, I have had the opportunity to work with legislators on the state and national level regarding agricultural policy. Also, I have had the privilege to work with various other individuals that are involved with programs such as Ag in the Classroom, L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, Development), the Women’s Committee, IFAL (Institute for Future Agricultural Leaders), and Young Farmers and Ranchers. Being able to work along with representatives from each of these groups has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for all of these programs. If you are interested in getting involved within the ag industry, I am sure Farm Bureau has a program for you!
K: Before this internship, I had a basic understanding of Farm Bureau from other organizations, but was not directly involved in any of their programs, so I definitely had a lot to learn. After spending the summer in the office and with different members of the staff, I learned how expansive NCFB is, from county offices, field staff, membership services, ag in the classroom, legislative services, etc. There are so many moving parts and programs, but the organization always presents itself as a well-oiled machine. With all of the moving parts, however, something particularly admirable is that everything is done in the best interest of the Farm Bureau members. I have always thought highly of the organization, but now I have an even greater appreciation for all that NC Farm Bureau does!
What was most surprising/interesting to you about the legislative process and working with legislators?
K: After spending the first half of the summer at the General Assembly, I learned that even after taking a year-long Government and Politics course in high school and beginning to dive into education policy through my college courses, nothing you learn in books or class can compare to watching how things happen first-hand. The whole process itself really surprised me. From all of the meetings and briefings that go on before any legislation makes it to a committee or on the floor, to amendments in the midnight hour on the last night of session, it’s a really complex process. With that being said, however, that complexity does not interfere with speed. Things happen so fast on Jones Street that if you blink, you really might miss the cornerstone piece of a bill moving in or moving out.
D: One of the fundamental things that stands out to me concerning the legislative process and Farm Bureau is that all of the legislators that we came into contact with this summer were very welcoming. The legislators were very willing to take the time to meet with us and discuss important issues facing the agriculture industry. I can definitely say that Farm Bureau has a great reputation at the General Assembly and others are very willing to work alongside this great organization to reach a certain goal. Being able to talk with these individuals and seeing their eagerness to work with Farm Bureau allowed me to quickly realize that I was working with a great organization. I am extremely thankful for this great opportunity.
Lastly, What was more difficult: finding parking near the legislative building or learning your way around the legislative building?
D & K: Thankfully, we never had trouble parking thanks to our trusty pay lot. Navigating the Legislative Complex, however, was a different story. One particular day, Paul sent us to a house committee meeting in the LB (Legislative Building), so we made our way over, but accidentally went to the senate committee room where nothing was going on. Thinking he misread the room number, we walked back to the LOB (Legislative Office Building) to what we thought was the right committee meeting. There were only maybe two other people in the room. After sitting in for a few minutes, we received a text of what bills to listen for and realized that those bills were not on the agenda and we were, again, in the wrong room. We finally made it to the LB to the correct committee room, where we had already missed the bills we were supposed to listen for, and they adjourned almost as soon as we sat down. After all of that, Paul texted us to meet him back at the LOB. This all happened within a 15 minute time span, walking between buildings and up many, many flights of stairs in about 95 degree weather. For the most part, however, we navigated fairly well.