My Final Day!

Sorry I have been absent these past couple of weeks. But I have lots to share! A few updates first; my documentary is now finished, and will be published to the CFSA youtube account. So if you are interested in Poultry Processing in North Carolina, take a look at my video that gives some insight into on-farm processing. On the policy side of things, N.C. has finished their 2016 short session and many of the bills we supported were ratified!

So, instead of giving you a re-cap of this week and lasts, I would like to take this time to talk about what I learned, what I loved, and what I look forward to all because of this internship.

What I Learned:

My first day here was spent scrambling around, googling words, and asking the simplest of questions. Now, it is my last day and I can walk you through the steps of how a bill is passed on the State level, how the General Assembly is organized, and analyze extensive Bills (like the Farm Act!). On top of all that, I learned great communication and lobbying skills, how to properly network and represent a company at events, and appropriate business etiquette. Known of these lessons came from a book, or a pamphlet, or even a tutorial video. No, these lessons came from the role models here at the CFSA and General Assembly. Rochelle Sparko, my internship host, and many others from partner companies influenced how I view the world of public policy and taught me how to enter such a tough field. I learned the dynamics of lobbying through our friends at the American Heart Association and Justice Center. I learned proper networking from a great women at NC Growing Together, and learn almost everything there is to know about Agricultural Public Policy from CFSA.

What I Loved:

My favorite part about CFSA? Trick question, I loved EVERYTHING. From the analytical bill tracking all the way to the casual monthly staff meetings, I enjoyed all of it. But what I will remember most is the networking. These past three months, I have met more people than my first semester in college! I was able to travel all over North Carolina, visiting farmers, plant manager, community outreach members, and even rally with some politicians!

Looking Forward:

This experience has shifted my sights on a slightly new goal. I have always wanted to go into research. I didn’t have an eye for affairs or policy. But my experience with the Warren Leadership Program and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association have influenced me into the field of foreign affairs. Which is why, when I graduate from College and return from the Peace Corps, I plan on working with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Well, that’s it for me. Time to finish the last day with a bang!

Stay Classy North Carolina ūüôā

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Week 9: From Prison…to Poultry

This week was not spent tracking bills as much as it was tracking visuals. but don’t worry! You can check out the progress of our relevant bills on my “Bills” page above. This week I spent my time learning about Foothills Pilot Plant; a Poultry Processing Plant in N.C. As a non-profit, they gained their employees from the prison right down the road- it was a great way to incorporate rehabilitation and cheap wages in the food system! I met the manager, a few workers, and several farmers who get their chickens processed there. The whole experience made me want to be a chicken farmer myself

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Monday– Independence Day ūüôā

Tuesday and Wednesday was spent doing a WHOLE BUNCH of research on Poultry Processing. Mostly from the policy perspective. I learned about specialty claims, exemptions, labeling, and inspections. I never thought I would be so interested in chickens! I was able to schedule some meetings with people that have agreed to be interviewed. I will be visiting my first poultry processing plant this week!

Thursday was spent driving, filming, and then driving again.  I met with Amanda Carter, manager of Foothills Pilot Plant; the only non-profit processing plant in the entire country! She was a lax woman who knew A LOT about chickens, rabbits, turkeys, you name it. She gave me some incredible insight on how the plant started, how inspections work, and her vision for the future of her plant. The processing plant is in Marion, NC (about a 3 hour drive); so I was really able to understand just how much time farmers have to put in- as well as take time away from their farm- just to finish their poultry. I hope to gain more insight on this when I meet with a few farmers that have agreed to be interviewed!

Friday was our monthly staff meeting. After we cover all the departments, we like to spend a few minutes to just relax, and catch up. But then its right back to work! I spent most of the day editing my interview with Amanda. For a short documentary, I had a massive amount of footage. The most difficult part is choosing what parts to now include for the sake of time! Everything is so interesting, and important for consumers to know, but I have to stay focused!

 

Week 8: Film for Thought

As a CFSA intern, I am suppose to choose ¬†Research Project to work on throughout the summer. Well, it’s better late than never, and I have finally decided what I want to do. I will be working on a documentary about Poultry Processing this month. Small farmers, that slaughter under 1,000 birds a year do not have to get a daily, mandatory inspection by the NCDA. However, that means they are also not allowed to put specialty labels such as “organic”, “free-range”, or even “local”. My documentary will focus on how these policies effect the average, small farmer in North Carolina. Stay tuned to see the final draft!

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Monday I worked in Pittsboro, where I brainstormed ideas for my research project. Rochelle, Lisa, and a few other co-workers were able to hook me up with some awesome contacts and farmers. Afterwards, I sat-in on a meeting where CFSA discussed a movie they were going to produce. It took a couple hours, but by the end of it, they had made an awesome layout.

Tuesday was spent at the G.A. where we sat in on the House Ag. Committee Meeting. They discussed the Farm Act of 2016. Afterwards, I was off to research more for my documentary. Since I only have a month to do it, much of my time will be spent finding farmers, gathering information, and most of all, getting the right filming equipment!

Wednesday, was spent researching for the CFSA member that I introduced in week/day 1! She is having trouble selling at Farmers Markets and we want to know how the Department of Agriculture has been interpreting the law to claim that she cannot sell at farmers markets. We are meeting with a few heads of the Meat and Poultry Division tomorrow. This information is very significant to us, because the CFSA is working on a Regulatory Guide that basically tells an aspiring small business owner how to start their business from the ground up. If that business owner would like to expand to Farmers Markets, we want to tell them just how to do that!

Thursday Rochelle and I were able to meet with a few member of the Meat and Poultry Division. The meeting went very well, and a LOT was clarified. One of the women we met with even agreed to be in my documentary! #networking

Friday I spent at the G.A. where I sat-in on Senate Session. The biggest thing I was looking out for was the NC Farm Act of 2016. Afterwards, I was off to film some shots for the documentary.

Week 7: Protecting Pollinators and Feeding Food Councils

This week I was a lone wolf, the leader of the pride, the queen bee! …Okay, well it was more like a¬†fly on the wall. I sat in on meetings, attended conferences, and protested at rallies, all on behalf of CFSA and Rochelle. It was uncomfortable doing all this work without guidance for a week, but there’s no growth unless you step outside your comfort zone, right? I established some great relationships this week,¬†especially with the Outreach Manager of N.C. Growing Together, Emily Edmonds. She is such a funny woman and a great person to have as a colleague and a friend. I also was able to learn more about N.C. Growing Together and how CFSA will collaborate with them in the future. This week, outside of the G.A. was focused on the development of food councils, which I am getting more and more hyped about!

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Monday was a fun day! I attended my first Rally ūüôā On behalf of CFSA, I attended the “Keep the Hives Alive” Rally outside of Bayer CropScience in RTP. There was a super diverse crowd there; teachers, beekeepers, community organizers and developers, and even representatives! A few people I met were just people walking by that ended up staying and protesting. I was really happy to see Representative Ager attend the Rally; it showed me how involved our legislatures get with their communities when it comes to issues they know we care about. Along with Representative, there were 5 other speakers who came and gave perspectives of how the decline of pollinators has effected them; 2 beekeepers, a teacher, an urban¬†community¬†development leader, and ¬†a¬†County Environmental Action Team manager. I was able to learn how pollinators don’t just effect beekeepers, and people who love honey- they effect everyone and everything.File_000 (5).jpeg Following the rally, I sat in on the Senate session where they discussed some important bills:

SB770, NC Farm Act of 2016: Passed the 3rd reading and was sent off to the House of Representatives.

SB 481, Fund Small Businesses/Publish DOR Rulings: Passed the 2nd and 3rd reading and was sent of to the House of Representatives where it was referred to the Finance Committee.

Tuesday was spent back in Pboro, where I listened in on the Senate session and did research on lobbying for 501(c)(3) organizations. I attended a webinar on this a week ago and learned all sorts of do’s and don’ts when it comes to non-profit advocacy. Basically, there are several rules you should follow if your organization would like to receive a tax exemption. One of the biggest rules being you canNOT lobby for or against any elected official. Well, my job that day was defining what an elected official was, what lobbying is defined as, and what exactly you can do and say to keep a tax exemption. Information I thought I would never think about in my life, but actually one of the most interesting webinars I’ve attended!

Wednesday, I attended a 5-hour Microenterprise Loan Program Professional Development Meeting. I met people from all over the state, many from the IRS, from small businesses, from banks, and from small business loan programs. It was a great networking opportunity and learning experience.

Thursday, I attended a “discussion” about building food policy councils to move beyond hunger. I say discussion and not meeting because Mark Winne (community food activist, writer, and trainer), members of food councils, community leaders, and I sat in a room and just talked. Mostly brainstormed, addressed issues, and asked questions to each other about the best and worst ways to establish regional and/or state food councils in North Carolina. This was very interesting because I did not know a lot about food councils. Now, I know their significance, how much influence they could have, and what makes a strong food council!

 

 

Week 6: The bees are coming! The bees are coming!

Much of this week was spend preparing for NEXT week! Rochelle will be out of town all week while her colleagues will be out of town Wednesday through Friday. I know what you’re thinking: Who the heck is going to watch the Policy department at CFSA? Well, you’re looking at her (or reading about her..)! ¬†Me, myself, and I will be attending conferences, rallies, and meetings on behalf of Rochelle and the CFSA. So stay tuned to see¬†if I can handle it…or call Rochelle in an epic panic.

Let’s hope for the first option ūüôā

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Monday was a whole day dedicated to research for our CFSA member who is having trouble selling at farmers markets. During my research, I have been learning about what is federal law vs State law, and how the deduction process works. After hours of work, piles of documents sorted through and read, and enough emails to make a novel out of, Rochelle and I have finished our research!

Wednesday was spent at the general assembly. We sat in on the Finance Committee Meeting where they discussed Senate Bill 770 (the Farm Act). Unfortunately, there was an amendment made and passed at the meeting. This amendment removed a section where the sales tax was exempt for farmers who made half of what the existing statute has written. The bill passed and is going to be read on the Senate floor soon. Afterwards, I attended our weekly Lobbyist meeting, where we discussed what action to take in regards to funding the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. I attended the meeting alone and was able to speak on behalf of Carolina Farm Stewardship, which was a great step!

Friday was spent in our Pittsboro, where Rochelle and I discussed tasks I will be taking on for next week. We are preparing for the “Keep the Hives Alive” Tour this Monday, where we will be passing out information about CFSA and spreading awareness of pollinator safety! Click here if you would like to attend or just learn about the tour!¬†After chains of emails, I am happy to say that the Carolina Farm Stewardship stands behind this tour as well as the safety and protection of pollinators against toxic pesticides! Throughout this internship, I came in with an open mind; I wanted to challenge my political and social perspectives. However, it has been pretty great working with an organization that shares your viewpoints but gives you more insight behind them. It just helps me clarify that these are the types of non-profits I want to work with once I graduate. Alright, let me get off my soap box and talk policy! There has been a lot of movement with all the bills discussed so far:

  • SB19:¬†Revenue Laws Technical Changes, a bill from last short session,¬†was withdrawn from the finance committee and re-referred to committee of Rules.
  • HB1090:¬†Prosperity & Econ Opportunity for All NC Act was withdrawn from Rules and re-referred to Finance
  • HB1047: SNAP Bill passed the 2nd reading¬†and 3rd reading on the floor
  • SB778: Performance Guarantees/ Subdivision Streets was reported favorably by the committee of Transportation, passed the 2nd reading and 3rd reading on the floor
  • HB992: Amend Ind Hemp Program, passed 1st reading in the senate and was referred to the committee of Ag/ Enviro/ Nat. Resources
  • HB481: Fund Small Businesses, re-referred to Appropriations Committee
  • For more details on these bills, just click the “Bills” tab up top!

Week 5: A bunch of new faces from some interesting places.

This week has been an interesting one. The biggest thing I have learned over the course of these five days is the importance of coming together. In the General Assembly, the CFSA represents not just one farmer, but the majority of small and local farmers throughout the entire state. And all those voices carry over when Rochelle vocalizes her perspective on a bill. Organizations such as the CFSA allow the small farmer to be hear when they have issues, needs, and even ideas. The larger the larger the group, the louder the voice!

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Monday I ¬†spent working the in and outs,the ups and downs, and the all arounds of the N.C. Regulatory guide. Although it seems slow and slightly uneventful (and for those who don’t like reading, incredibly uneventful), this has been one of the most enlightening activities I’ve done so far. I mean, it’s a guide for people who do not know much about agriculture (me), people who are interested in learning about policy (again, me), and people who want to start a business but don’t know how (once again, ME). Yes, I am editing a document, but I am also learning about legislation that I need to know for future jobs! This is something that directly affects me. And that is the differences between this piece of literature and my calculus textbook…. that and I have yet to fall asleep while reading this one.

Tuesday was a lovely, slow day at the G.A. Most of my time there was spent listening to the Agriculture Committee discuss industrial hemp (SB992). Not a big deal right? WRONG. There were about 45 mins of questions regarding 1 thing and 1 thing only; “How do we know people aren’t going to grow pot with this?” Thankfully, Rochelle is working with an A.W.E.S.O.M.E. team that knows almost everything there is to know about industrial hemp. I had the pleasure of meeting all of them today; we had a strategy meeting proceeding¬†the Committee discussion. They were such a different group of people from anyone else I have met at the General Assembly so far, given that this was some of their first time coming to the General Assembly!

Wednesday was yet another lovely day at the G.A.-did I mention I’m a poet? Anyways, there were meetings about money, meetings about strategy and even meetings about meetings! First I sat in on the Regulatory Reform Committee meeting where we discussed the Employee Protection Act (HB1069). Much of this discussion in reference to this bill focused on identifying illegal immigrants in N.C. and practices they will implement, with funding, to properly do so. Given that illegal immigrants is a very hot topic there was a LOT of controversy. Proceeding the vote on that bill and the amendments made to it was the Protect Safety/ Well-being of N.C. Citizens Act (SB303). There were plenty of amendments made and even more questions asked but as soon as the clock hit 10:00AM, a decision was made! After this meeting, me and a few other interns were off to the Education Committee Meeting where they discussed a new math curriculum for public schools. I was able to do some research about Meat Inspection Regulations and Laws, pertaining to a member of the CFSA, while listening in on session. Finally, I ended the day at the Health Committee meeting where they discussed HB1047 also known as the SNAP bill!

**If y’all want to keep up with any of the bill I mention in my blog, just go to the “Bill Tracking” Section at the top!**

Thursday was also spent going from meeting to meeting. I sat in on the Ag/ NER meeting today where they discussed the Hemp bill further. So far there seems to be a majority (if not unanimous) support for it on the Ag. side! Afterwards Rochelle and I met up with a few members from BioRegens to discuss strategy for when the bill is discussed on the House floor. Afterwards Rochelle introduced me to N.C. Growing Together (NCGT) Extension & Outreach Program Manager, Emily. She was welcoming, hilarious, and had some awesome ideas on how we¬†could work together to put local farmers in leadership positions. Between all the networks CFSA has and all the ideas Emily, we’re basically capable of anything *pops collar*.

¬†Friday was back in Pittsboro, where we had our monthly staff meeting. We all went around and shared what we were working on, what’s finished, and what’s new. The rest of the day was spent working on a case for one of CFSA’s members and analyzing the Farm Act. When reading bills, as an intern, my job is to review them as if I am a member of CFSA an decide if it is something I would agree with or not. As a non-profit, our number one goal is to look out for the welfare of our members!

Til next week.

Week 4: For the Red, White, and Budget-I mean Blue!

This week I have been able to reflect a lot. I have reflected on how grateful I and my fellows should be for these internships and for the men and women that fought for us to have the freedoms we do today. I am working with a non-profit organization that consistently utilizes the freedom of speech. And it is because of the brave warriors of this country, that we are able to do that without living in fear. So today, this week, and for the rest of my days, I am grateful for the opportunities I have and those who fought for me to have them. *wipes lone tear from cheek* Alright, back to business!

AMERICA

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Monday- Memorial Day ūüôā

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at the General Assembly, where the hot topic was- you guessed it- the Budget! I sat through meetings for the Appropriations Committee, Finance Committee, and House Chamber; all of which I was able to do with my fellow interns! As the intern that works farthest away from the rest, I was relieved to spend time with my colleagues and see how their internships were going. In between meetings, I was able to 1) breathe and 2) do some research on new and moving bills.

Thursday was a day full of research: I spent half the day reviewing the Farm Act, finding reasons behind changes made to specific statutes. The other half was spent reviewing the N.C. Regulatory Guide.

Throughout the week was spent on following the budget! And everyday this week I had questions about the budget! I am learning about the entire process of how it is passed (fingers-crossed that it will be soon) through subcommittees, committees, the house, and senate. And although it is a long process it sure is an interesting (and sometimes heated) one!