Politics may not seem like a logical career goal for most agriculture majors. However, Mizzou students Morgan Beach, Nora Faris and Cole Edwards plan to use their CAFNR degrees on Capitol Hill.
Although their interest might have sparked from their agricultural background, the need for effective agricultural advocates was highlighted to them through their internships at the state and national capitols.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and government,” Edwards said, “Through FFA I realized a need for agricultural lobbyists and lawyers – combining two of my passions.” Edwards, a sophomore majoring in agribusiness management, interned for Senator Brian Munzlinger in Jefferson City. He corresponded with constituents and learned about the legislative process. This experience helped Edwards set his career goals as an agricultural advocate.
“I hope to influence policy more in favor of American farmers and ranchers,” Edwards said. “By cutting harmful government regulations, decreasing the tax burden, and protecting rural interests, agriculture can and will thrive.”
Morgan Beach, a senior studying agricultural economics and public policy, gained real world experience as an intern for Land O’ Lakes Incorporated in Washington, D.C. In the city, there was a strong network of Mizzou alumni and that made it easier to connect to other opportunities. Beach lobbied for dairy food issues, school-lunch programs, crop- and agronomy- based issues, GMO labeling trade, livestock and even animal health issues under Land O’ Lakes Purina brand.
“Without someone who understands the industry and who is speaking on behalf of the industry … someone else will be doing that job in D.C., and it may not be what we want” people “to hear,” Beach said. “It really just comes down to being an advocate for the industry and one of the ways that we do that is through policy. So many of the policies that farmers use every day … are regulated by the federal government and that comes down to having people in D.C. who understand the ag background and are able to connect that.”
Although lobbying and the agriculture industry have a negative public image, future lobbyists hope to end the stereotypes.
“I think lobbying gets a bad rap because they kind of get associated with a car salesman, that pushy … attitude, kind of lying and scheming, but really, lobbying is just education in the simplest form,” Beach said. Beach said that educating members of Congress or other groups involves connecting the issue to their interests or business, which bridges the gap between agriculture and legislation.
“Any career that I’ve ever heavily considered is one that has a bad PR image for some reason,” Faris said. “Whether that’s politician, lobbyist, lawyer, or journalist even, it seems like they’re always the people in the room who no one wants to talk to, but they eventually end up meeting at some point in their career.” Faris hopes to be a problem solver for public relations in agriculture, politics and lobbying.
If agriculture in government is something students are interested in, they should diversify their experiences by exploring their options.
“Take a variety of internships because you may find that maybe you’re not interested in what you thought you were,” Faris said. “Maybe there’s something else out there that’s a better fit for you.”
Faris began with an interest in politics and government. She interned for Senator Roy Blunt for a semester during her freshman year and realized she enjoyed the political process.
“I enjoyed knowing how difficult decisions are made that affect people across the state, but I didn’t necessarily like the pure politics where it’s a senator or a representative voicing the concerns of the people,” Faris said. “I’d rather be working with an organization that promotes a certain industry or a certain group of people that I’m most passionate about.” She also interned at Farm Bureau, which she enjoyed because its mission matched her goals and beliefs.
Beach shared similar sentiments, saying “I think your major is less important” than “your interest. I think that you can take a spin on many different majors and make them important to policy…” and “take any experience that you can get firsthand.”