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What is the best course of action through college (majors and internships) for someone interested in becoming a lobbyist for agriculture?

I am interested in becoming a lobbyist, specifically for agriculture. I am currently a business: marketing major. I was wondering if this is a good track to remain on or if I need to go into something along the lines of Political Science. I am aware that I will also have to go back for my masters. I also need to know what types of internships I need to get into. Thank you in advance! #agriculture #lobbyist

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Angela’s Answer

Hi Madison,

I am very happy to see that your want to become a lobbyist for agriculture. It is big business right now, and you should be very successful when you become a lobbyist.

The best course of action, would be to take courses in agriculture, or find a school with an agriculture major. My degree is in Foods and Nutrition, but you will get more in depth information and understand the agriculture industry from the bottom up. Also, when you are ready for an internship, look at agribusiness companies such as John Deere, Cargill, Caterpillar, and other food industry companies or associations that are based in areas such as grain, beef, corn, sugar, etc. The plant-based industry is booming right now, so if you can get an internship with one of these companies, that would be great. I am not sure of the future for this, but right now would be a good time to understand that industry from the round up. (e.g., sourcing of plants and ingredients to make burgers).

These can give you valuable experience in learning the industry. Having a business degree is helpful, but be sure to add basic law courses as an elective, because understanding the legal language is important , especially when you begin lobbying lawmakers. Many of them are lawyers.

Learn to understand the agriculture business from consumers point of view. All agriculture affects consumers in some fashion, and you will be successful when you can understand and know that business affects the consumer, and will make you more relatable when you begin lobbying.

I hope this information is useful to you. Good Luck in your future endeavors!

Angela recommends the following next steps:

Register for courses in agriculture
Volunteer if you can at a 4H if you live near an area for that
Subscribe to free magazines for the agriculture industry
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Kyle’s Answer

Hi Madison,

I see that I'm about 2.5yrs late in answering this, but since LinkedIn presented this opportunity, I will take it. Maybe it'll still be helpful to you or others.

As you may have seen from others' comments, there are many avenues to getting into the field of ag lobbying. There is no single right answer.

If you're still in school and haven't done so already, I'd suggest picking up an internship or two in a legislative office at the state or federal level. This will help you get the basic fundamentals of government. If you're lucky, you might be able to pick up an internship with someone serving on an ag committee, though this is more of a cherry on top. Even a temp gig in a Dept. of Ag would be beneficial to showing a different aspect of government involvement in the sector.

Furthermore, I'd suggest an internship/co-op for a business or nonprofit involved in ag. This will help you get experience from the private sector side of things. And if you play your cards right, could turn into a job.

As far as education goes, I don't see that as important as the experiences you bring to the table. A business degree could be useful and look just as good if you have various experiences in ag. Myself, I studied Public Administration in undergrad. Now, I had no intentions of ag lobbying at the time. However, over the years working for the state Legislature, I participated in different ag committees/working groups. Furthermore, as an elected county official, representing a large ag community, I got involved in the state and national association's ag committees.

In the end, it was more of a fluke that I got my job lobbying. I stumbled upon a job posting for a small nonprofit that advocates for a specific commodity. I was hired AND THEN decided to go back for my MPA. Is an advanced degree necessary, no. Is it helpful, yes. However, when I applied for my job, the posting said "masters preferred". But my experiences stood out above the 'lack of education'.

My last suggestion, make LOTS OF CONTACTS! Some will pan out, others will not. But you never know who can help you and when. This was something I learned the hard way.

Good luck and I hope this is helpful!
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Sterling’s Answer

Hello Madison,

It enlightens me to know that there are students who look forward to becoming a lobbyist before graduation. The best advice i could give someone with your aspirations would be to take a Policy Analysis Methods class, or something of that nature, and also some classes dealing with the agriculture field as well as a Public Policies and an Ethics class. The knowledge that you learn from those four types of classes should help you prepare for being efficient in political measures dealing with lobbying for agriculture. Also become extremely knowledgeable about agriculture within your state First, because laws and regulations vary by the city and state but knowing A LOT about what is going on around your community is a great start that requires zero class time...Public Affairs and Public Relations are a few majors within political science that could put you into some classes that are specifically about reading, writing, or analyzing a policy.

Best of Luck,

S.Bailey

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Zabrae’s Answer

If you are a business marketing major, I'd ask why it is you are attracted to ag lobbying--? Knowing that would help guide you. The purpose of lobbying, ideally, is to positively influence public policy, through the legislative process -- at the local, state, or federal level. So at a minimum you would want to learn about/ develop expertise in the political/legislative process. Studying political science is a great place to start, and then you'd probably want to intern in a state legislature or with Congress. To be an ag lobbyist you also really need to know something about agriculture of course -- I'm thinking maybe you grew up on a farm, or have some other connection to ag? (I worked for several years in DC for a US Senator who was on the Ag Committee, handling his agriculture issues. I did not have a farming background but did have a masters in public policy, and ag-related experience. Most of the ag staffers adn lobbyists had some personal connection to agriculture. Alternatively, maybe you are very interested in sustainable or organic agriculture, or preserving family farms, and so are coming at it from that angle... lots of options.)

One way or another you do need to develop entry level expertise in politics, legislative process and agriculture itself (which can mean many different things obviously -- farming, ranching, fruit and specialty crops, different regions of the country or world, different size producers, different production methods, etc....) You do not need a masters degree but you definitely need to be a strong writer, and be ready for a fast paced work life, and a schedule you don't have much control over ; )

I'm also happy to discuss this if that is more productive--! Good Luck!
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Rose’s Answer

Hi! Technically, you don't need any degree to lobby. If I were you, I wouldn't change my major, but maybe add a minor in communications or political science. I recently worked on a campaign for Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture and my advice to you would be to learn the political process within your state, make as many connections as you can, visit/talk with legislators and cabinet members during their off season (not during session or committee weeks), and really study up on agricultural policy, as well as statistics, within the state you plan to lobby in. Hope I helped!

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lj’s Answer

I think the virus is only for human beings right now and plants and animal wildlife might be affected slightly. Within the virus being from one human to another agriculture is unaffected and more often than not the environment is what makes the world a better place to be in, once the virus is fully detoxified, then the world will be a more safer environment to be in.
Thank you comment icon Hi Ij, the student asked about the best college track to pursue agricultural lobbying not so much about COVID-19. Please address the student's question if you can Gurpreet Lally, Admin
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Ivan’s Answer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQnORhx3gUM Origins of ring around the Rosie?


I would say environmental sciences.

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Paula’s Answer

Hi, Madison. You don't actually need a specific field to be a lobbyist. I've been lobbying for almost 15 years and I have degree in business. I've represented banking, utilities, insurance, credit unions, etc. You simply need to connect with some of the local elected officials and industries like the Farm Bureau.


I'm always looking for interns and willing to train.


Paula

Paula recommends the following next steps:

Please contact me at psardinas@nwcua.org if you are interested in an internship in Washington State.
If you are in Washington, reach out to Legislators in Eastern, WA. Most are willing to train.
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Aimee’s Answer

Two things make a successful lobbyist: expertise on an issue and connections to policy makers.

Look for opportunities to intern and learn about ag policy. There are lots of resources because the Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in Congress. The House and Senate passed their versions and a conference committee from both chambers will meet after Labor Day in the hope of passing a bill by the end of September. Lots of ag groups are publishing information on hot-button issues on the Farm Bill.

Look at the ag committees at the federal and state level and see if any of your local elected officials are on these committees. If so, reach out to their offices and see if they have internship opportunities. Also, see if your state legislature offers summer employment or internships.
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John’s Answer

Many lobbyists have law degrees or degrees on government.


You should also have working knowledge of the needs and issues of the field you plan to represent.



Finally, you must be self assured and confident to present these issues to lawmakers

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Hayes’s Answer

You can maintain your focus on business, but also look into any agribusiness specific coursework. So many agriculture related businesses offer internships, so apply for as many as you can. Also look into internships with government departments of agriculture and extensive offices. That will set you on solid course.

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Jonathan’s Answer

I recommend you start to take courses in political science economics government. While the business degree will help you run a lobby firm those other areas will help you get the necessary expertise. As for internships because agriculture is a national interest i tecommend getting an internship with a federal legislator from a farm state, if that is not available any internship with a federal legislator will be helpful, from there I would look for an internship at the state or local levels. As for your first job you may need to start of the staff of s legislator and then get recruited by a lobbying firm. I al reccomend getting an advanced degree. A JD is the best and path I am most familiar as I am a JD/LLM in Tax Law. The path to lobbyist is very natural. I hope this helps. Good luck!
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Kimberly’s Answer

It's exciting to see that you have an interest in policy. There is not any real formula for becoming a lobbyist. Now becoming a good lobbyist is a different story. I've found that my undergraduate degree in Journalism has been helpful as I do a lot of writing and reading. My Juris Doctorate allows me to look at things analytically. But I truly the key is studying a topic you enjoy, familiarizing yourself with the needs and policy positions of your clients; and fostering authentic relationships with policymakers. I submit that the key to good lobbying is all about excellent communications and messaging, as engagement tools to educate an audience. I exist on the premise that all stakeholders have a vested STAKE in any policy or advocacy initiative. STAKE is an acronym, which to me means:

Supporting
Transparent
Advocacy
and Key
Education

Stakeholders are better suited to make sound policy, or business decisions when they understand the big picture. Thus, I always work to communicate thoughtful, strategic, messages that not only inform but also educate my audience, i.e., elected and appointed officials so that policy decisions are always well understood, appreciated, valued, thoughtfully implemented, and thereby universally accepted. My educational advocacy way of thinking has been the key to me getting a seat at the policy table over and over again.

Good Luck to you!

Kimberly recommends the following next steps:

Pick your college courses based upon your passion.
Take elective courses that make you well rounded.
Get involved in programs like the YMCA Youth Assembly. (Nearly 40 years ago I was involved in Campfire Youth Legislature and Girls State n South Louisiana.)
Be open to a nontraditional role in addition to a lobbyist, such as a press officer, legislative analyst, policy analyst, a biofuels executive.
Never be without pen and paper, journal and make sure that you always have a Plan B.
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Joseph’s Answer

Definitely recommend joint an agriculture based group or fraternity for more networking opportunities.
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Missy’s Answer

you can stay on your course for business, but be sure to take some government and political science courses. You should start volunteering for political campaigns, Democrat or Republican parties, or at your state Legislature.

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Keenan’s Answer

Well, thank goodness for multiple opinion angles! Here's my .02 as I too am working toward the sweet role of lobbyist myself and have built out a track record. First, when you look for jobs basically none of them will advertise for the role of 'lobbyist'. Might I suggest the following pieces of information if you are to conclude a decision with all the others + myself combined.

Education: Having a rock solid comprehension of what you are doing is always a plus. Agriculture is that 'thing' that isn't exactly able to be automated or outsourced anytime soon and I do firmly believe you are in good hands with that.

That said, let's bolster your comprehension a bit... People are right in that you absolutely need a bit of a few things under your belt. Not as a major, but to have a FIRM understanding of governance and it's moving parts structurally. Let's take a look:

  • Political Science: Look for coursework that goes over organizational structure of governance as you will want to know how the 'sludge' flows through the system. In order to know how, you'll need to understand the plumbing. Remember 'Bill' from School House Rock?
  • Business Law: Ok, this one's more of a preference here... So you are not a lawyer, but a lobbyist's job is to schmooze and sway policy. To do this, you kind of need to have a fundamental understanding of how to read rules/ regulations/ laws and have BASELINE writing comprehension.
  • Public Speaking: Not just for over-educated TED talkers! Here you want to refine the 'elevator pitch' and gain comfort speaking in front of others. Seriously... Take a course in this...
  • Negotiation Strategy: This is a good place to not only get an useful skill... but work on body language. Remember, you want them to listen and ADOPT what your saying... Negotiate!
  • Grants Writing: As an agriculture major... you will no doubt do this some time. However, it's an useful Segway into 2 things: Writing grants (always in need) and understanding how to refine and write government jargon.
  • Strategize: Learned this the last round I was looking for work. Figure out WHERE you want to be and WHY you want to be there. When you refine what you'll be doing and where... you can focus easier.

Now that we have education out of the way (Masters=Yes, Political Science=Not very useful)... you can then look for policy internships or research opportunities via local or federal. Look for things like 'policy analyst' or 'public relations' <-- tho be methodical with that one. Anything that is projecting outward the business or organization to the public.

Look for organizations around your 'causes' (for me, I was a firefighter for 12 years and my first logical choice was to see the international union's webpage and public affairs section) and start looking around for opportunities to 'help' - you never know when volunteering or interning turns into a job.

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Gary’s Answer

Hey Madison,

I recently graduated from college with a degree in English and Political Science. I am currently partaking in my second internship, during the first one I worked for my states legislature, and am currently working for a Committee in the House of Representatives. I took an interest in lobbying while working for my states legislature, and actually have an interview tomorrow for a lobbyist role. I will admit however I was a long shot for this interview, had to beg via email and linkedin to even be considered, and in all honestly im hopeful but likely wont get the position. Many people after getting their bachelors degree will either get a law degree or get a masters of public policy to be considered for lobbying positions.

Many people will tell you to get a political science degree or law degree but I don't think I would have this interview tomorrow if it weren't for my English degree. I know. . .you likely cant tell i'am a solid writer by this post cause I wont be taking the time to edit it, but a large part of what lobbyists do is research and writing. Point being, I would strongly suggest considering a minor in English at the least. Also points to the lady who suggested taking law courses, it might not seem pertinent but legislation is itself law but more importantly it's written by lawyers in legalese. As internships go, heres a solid tip. . .just about every university in the US will have its own lobbyist.

*I would suggest when you go to college find out who that person is ASAP, because they will have a great deal of connections in both your state and federal government. The lobbyist at my school was vital in helping me get an internship in D.C. *

No matter what don't get overwhelmed and don't compare yourselves to other. . .especially in college. Everyone is on their own journey and not two are the same. Successful people in this world tend to be those who are determined and stick to long-term goals. Good luck and no matter what happens keep you head held high, have a firm hand shake, and don't be afraid to speak up and be heard!

Gary recommends the following next steps:

Go to college
Take law courses. . .Oh, and English courses
Stay determined even in the wake of failure
Find the University Lobbyist for help with internships!
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CPT (R) Micholas A.’s Answer

Agricultural Engineering with a minor in Political Science
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