Editor’s Note: Abby Mueller is the daughter of David and Patricia Mueller of Cummings, ND. David is on the Board of Directors for the American Crystal Sugar Company, Hillsboro District. She is attending North Dakota State University, with a major in Agribusiness and a minor in Crop and Weed Sciences, and she plans to graduate in May of 2019. Below, Abby outlines her summer as the Bill Cleavinger intern with the ASGA.
Internship Report Ten years ago, I started pulling bolters from my dad and uncle’s sugarbeet fields. I had no idea that it would lead me to an internship experience with the ASGA. Last winter, my dad told me about the Bill Cleavinger Internship in Washington D.C. I decided to apply, as the opportunity to intern in D.C. was beyond what I thought would be available to me after my sophomore year in college. Policy and government roles in agriculture were areas that I knew little about. I know many students who would rather focus on their little part of the world than work on a national or global level. This intrigued me to open up my world outside of how agricultural policies affect only my family and the growing area we live in. The past eight weeks I spent in D.C. following around the office and discovering my independence surprised me as to how limited my knowledge was outside of my little bubble back home. Upon my arrival to DC, I hit the ground running. I began working on several projects between shadowing Luther Markwart, Ruthann Geib and Scott Herndon around the office and to various meetings, and on weekends I was exploring the city and surrounding areas. Events and Experiences Within the first 24 hours of arriving in D.C., Scott picked me up from the airport, I checked into my dorm and had a quick sugar briefing on the Mexican sugar policy. I then went up to Capitol Hill with Luther and Ruthann for a briefing with congressional staff, left my phone in a taxi, and managed to get it back again. In the following days and weeks I sat in on more sugar briefings with the congressional staff and a House Ag Committee hearing on university research and biotech for the next farm bill. I also made visits to the USDA, International Trade Commission, BIO (Biotech Innovation Organization), American Farm Bureau headquarters, and the Indonesian Embassy. I was fortunate to sit in and listen to the discussions about the sugar markets and how they all relate back to the farmers across the nation. I also attended meetings with the American Sugar Alliance meeting and the ABA (American Biotech Alliance), and the CropLife America luncheon for D.C. ag interns. Upon arrival to the office, I was given several projects to work on during my eight week internship. I collected data about the counties in the U.S. that grow sugar, and found different colored film to code beet, cane, and seed producing regions on a map of the U.S. that hangs in the ASGA conference room. I placed pins across the map to illustrate where the refineries and processing plants are located in the U.S. and Canada. Another large project was the creation of a chart that represented threshold allowances for food produced with genetic engineering. The data in the chart was organized by the approach, country, and respective populations. I received data about the different approaches to each country’s law on labeling, then inserted the populations for each country into an Excel document. With this information, I created a pie chart to illustrate GMO labeling policies around the world. This chart will be used to promote a beneficial threshold allowance to farmers and consumers while the U.S. works to establish a threshold allowance. I also updated the annual Consumer Price Survey, using information from a local grocery store’s website on the price of certain products and grams of sugar to compare the price of sugar in each product. This is a project that the ASGA interns do every summer and the information is compared across the different years to promote the fact that sugar is not the reason for higher prices of grocery items. Internship Impact I fit a lot of sightseeing and work into those eight weeks, and I am nothing but grateful to have the experience and the ability to complete it. Before I was given the honor of being the 2017 ASGA intern, I had always thought of myself as ordinary and willing to settle for less than what I am capable of accomplishing. I had always craved more adventure for my future and was not sure I would be satisfied staying within the comfort zone at home. A mindset I used to have that is currently repetitive across the minds of several agricultural students I know looks to how policies affect the farm and making their living. It does not often occur in the students’ minds to consider where the policies came from and who is behind their creation, which is vital to the success or failure of their farm. I had always wanted to make a change or be an advocate for agriculture, but I did not know what else there was outside of small towns, until I heard about this internship. Despite how lost I have been trying to figure out where to go with my life, I realized that this internship would be a turning point that could change my mindset from thinking of myself as ordinary to doing something great with my life. This was the greatest learning opportunity I have had to launch my future career. I established my independence by going out on my own for two months without someone there to hold my hand, and an enormous lifestyle change of going from a relaxed setting to an extremely busy and fast paced routine and learning to adjust. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses of working in an urban environment that often has high pressure, and developed valuable connections to people, from friends in the dorm to the members of the American Sugar Alliance. This internship was invaluable because of how much it has impacted me. It added a whole new element to my perception of agriculture. Words cannot express the lasting impression it has left on me and how it will continue to play a role in my lifetime.