By Amy Czerniak, NFU Intern

Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, and Larry Combest, former Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, hosted an intern luncheon Tuesday, June 14 in conjunction with The Hand That Feeds Us. I attended with great curiosity about what her message would be for that particular audience: young people that have taken an active interest in agriculture.

I identified with Scanlan almost immediately; while she did not grow up on a farm, she was raised in rural Nebraska and had seen the importance of agriculture all her life. It wasn’t until recently, however, that she realized just how much more support farmers needed, especially on a legislative level. The 210,000 full-time farmers in America carry the responsibility of sustaining agriculture within our country, but we face a thin line between self-sufficiency and potential dependence on other countries for our food. With the next farm bill quickly approaching, it is important to consider how policy can create greater stability for America’s farmers and our national food supply.

Miss America aptly pointed out, “Not everybody farms, but everybody needs to eat.” Protecting our farmers and providing a safety net that offers assistance in adversity and emergency should be at the forefront of our concerns. In the wake of numerous recent natural disasters, Miss America argued, “Now, more than ever, is when we need that farm safety net.” She compared potential agricultural budget cuts to an average household budget. When families need to reassess their spending habits, they do not cut the money they spend on food; because nourishment is a necessity, other things in their family budgets can be minimized. As a money-conscious college student, this point really resonated with me. When considering what items I can afford to purchase, I nearly always have my next trip to the market or grocery store in the back of my mind.

Scanlan explained that she chose to speak to interns because we have the power to influence the people making decisions for the nation. If those people hear the same message over and over again, we have the potential to make a significant impact on their decisions. Her points stretch beyond interns, however, because we are all affected by farm policy. Miss America’s advice to me applies to all citizens: speak up when you get the chance.

Amy Czerniak, NFU’s communication and education intern, will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in December with a degree in communication studies and minors in professional writing and photography. She grew up in rural north-central Wisconsin. Czerinak was first introduced to Farmers Union through the youth program and has been involved in the organization for over ten years.

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