From top left, Ashley Thompson, Brandon Sandoval, Elden Harry, Justin Salcido, Kameren Carver, Tina Wilson and Wayne Shockey. The group visited Washington, D.C., last month as part of New Mexico State University’s New Mexico Agricultural Leadership program to learn about agricultural policy at the national level. | Photo courtesy NMSU

New Mexico State University leadership program explores agricultural policy in Washington, D.C.

A group of emerging agricultural leaders from New Mexico got a behind-the-scenes look at ag-related policy in the making last month during a weeklong trip to the nation’s capital.

The group was part of the New Mexico Agricultural Leadership program, an 18-month leadership experience offered through New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

The trip to Washington, D.C., served as an immersive opportunity for the six-member cohort to observe and analyze the work that goes into creating agricultural policy at the national level, said Tina Wilson, NMAL program specialist.

Wilson said the trip included back-to-back meetings with the congressional staff members representing New Mexico’s delegation and a meeting with Will McIntee, associate director of public engagement for rural and agriculture policy for the White House.

The group also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, where they laid a wreath and learned about the tomb’s history. They also toured the Animal Agricultural Alliance and the Smithsonian museum complex.

One of the highlights, Wilson said, was running into New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell in between scheduled meetings.

“She talked to us about issues related to the ag industry in New Mexico and things that were going on here in the state,” Wilson said.

NMAL is a seminar-based program for professionals in New Mexico’s agricultural industry. During the 18-month program, participants engage in monthly seminars designed to develop leadership skills and give a broad view of society and a better sense of how agriculture contributes statewide, nationally and beyond.

The most recent cohort started the program in September 2020. The group includes:

  • Kameren Carver, warehouse manager for Carver Oil, Milan
  • Elden Harry, small grains crop manager for Navajo Agricultural Products Inc., Farmington
  • Ashley Thompson, customer support specialist for Ag New Mexico Farm Credit, Albuquerque and Edgewood
  • Justin Salcido, director of collateral risk at Farm Credit of New Mexico, El Paso and Las Cruces
  • Brandon Sandoval, operations manager for Navajo Agricultural Products Inc., Farmington
  • Wayne Shockey, Eddy County Cooperative Extension Service, Artesia

The Washington trip was one of the group’s final seminar activities before completing the program in January. Many participants said the trip was their favorite part of the program.

“The trip to Washington, D.C., was very enlightening. Having never been to D.C. before, I found the history of D.C. to be a strong reminder to never forget the past and instead use it to learn,” Shockey said. “The tours and the monuments were also a reminder to be a better person and develop better leadership qualities to be a stronger spokesman for the agricultural community.

Salcido added: “The Washington, D.C, seminar was an impactful experience for the group. We appreciate all who work in D.C. to advocate and support agriculture and rural America.”

Wilson said the program usually includes an international experience, but the current cohort will not get to travel abroad before graduation due to COVID-19 restrictions. She added that the group will join the next class on its international trip in 2022.

Recruitment is now underway for the next cohort, Wilson said. Applicants must be at least 25 years old and employed in the agricultural industry in New Mexico, among other requirements. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1.

For application details, click here.

Author: Carlos Andres López – NMSU


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