Maize Matters: Blue Jackets on the Hill
Blue corduroy jackets were hot and heavy in Washington D.C during July, but Illinois FFA members said they were honored to hold the weight, responsibility, and privilege of representing agriculture alongside the ILCorn Growers Association (ICGA) in the United States capital.
For the sixth year, IL Corn partnered with Illinois FFA, inviting state officers and section presidents to Washington D.C. for the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Congress.
Illinois’ five state FFA major officers and 25 section presidents were given a voice alongside ICGA to discuss federal legislation impacting Illinois farmers. “The people that I got to meet with were in favor of the Farm Bill,” said Samantha Hazelwonder, Illinois FFA’s Section 16 president. “It was amazing to see the amount of support that they have for us, and we have for them.”
Illinois FFA’s trip to Washington D.C. is one piece of IL Corn’s partnership with the organization. In 2023, IL Corn committed to donate $25 to Illinois FFA for each new ICGA membership. At this year’s Illinois FFA State Convention, IL Corn was recognized as one of the organization’s top Star Supporters.
During their time in Washington D.C., officers filled every moment with opportunity, visiting industry leaders, executive departments, and federal legislators. The young leaders asked administrators and policy makers questions about the Farm Bill, atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tailpipe emissions proposal, and the future of the ethanol industry.
Hazelwonder said she was able to gain a new perspective during her first trip to Washington. “We got to meet with EPA, U.S. Grains Council, and a bunch of differentpeople. Those (visits) were absolutely amazing to learn from their perspective,” said Hazelwonder. “Not only that, but we also got to learn a little bit about the people speaking to us and how they got to those places, as we look into our future careers.”
Although Capitol Hill was a busy place before August recess, blue jackets were seen alongside ICGA leadersadvocating for legislative priorities in congressional meetings. ICGA leadership met with all 17 Illinois’representatives and both senate offices. Farmer leaders also built relationships with members of congress during the National Corn Growers Association “Farm Bill Frenzy” reception.
“Not only was our July trip to Washington D.C.successful because we advocated for our farmer members, but because we highlighted to the next generation, the impact policy plays in our everyday lives,” said ICGA President Matt Rush, a graduate of Southern IllinoisUniversity Carbondale’s agricultural education program. “Not only was our July trip to Washington D.C.successful because we advocated for our farmer members, but because we highlighted to the next generation, the impact policy plays in our everyday lives,” said ICGA President Matt Rush, a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s agricultural education program.
“I had never really had an interest in policy before, nor understood what it was. But coming here, and meeting with all these people has really given me an understanding that I think a lot of people should have,” said Hazelwonder. “So, as I go into my future, when I see those things, I now will understand what’s actually going on and how I can relate to it.”