Want to make a difference? Step up, step in and get involved, says Julie Bushell, vice president of Paige Water Solutions, Mountainside, New Jersey, and vice president of the Fairfax, Virigina-based Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors.
That attitude of being the change that the industry needs is part of what led Bushell to take part in Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen’s recent trade mission to South Korea and Japan.
“The priority of the trade mission was hydrogen, so clean energy and our ag exports,” says Bushell. “We went to South Korea first. They are Nebraska’s largest customer in beef.”
Bushell was joined by various parts of the ag supply chain in addition to Pillen and Sherry Vinton, Nebraska director of agriculture.
“We just completed a 10-day trade mission trip to South Korea and Japan,” Pillen told Farm Progress. “We, Nebraska agriculture, feed the world. We raise way more than we can use, so we have to sell Nebraska goods to the world, and our goal is to find really tremendous markets. We were in Vietnam in July and now to South Korea and Japan. These trips are tangible, as we work to build relationships.”
Bushell adds that sustainability was a central theme of many conversations had on the mission.
“We met with the commodity groups in both countries and spoke about beef and pork as well,” Bushell says. “What I would say was really resounding and that the governor mentioned in every meeting was that Nebraska producers are the most sustainable in the world.”
A big part of the sustainability conversation was the technology that irrigation companies are developing and have already implemented in the field.
“The technology that our [IA] members have brought to the table was the talking point of proving our sustainability metrics and how efficient we are when we are growing the products that these countries are buying from us,” says Bushell. “So we were able to leverage that story to add value to the state’s economy. That was pretty cool to hear.”
The trip highlighted the importance of engaging with policymakers to demonstrate the value of irrigation domestically and internationally, according to Bushell.
“Having a seat at the table is vitally important because so many times they want us to come in and educate them on what we see from a business standpoint, but also the successes our industry has,” she says. “Being involved with the IA for the past 10 years now with the government affairs side and now being on the board and the executive team, it’s just abundantly clear that without educating on what we do and the value of irrigation and specifically efficient irrigation technologies, policymakers don’t know.”
She adds that a common misconception is that policymakers are not interested in what associations or their members have to say.
“Lawmakers do seek input from associations,” Bushell says. “The Irrigation Association and our members play an absolutely critical role in shaping policy for our industry. Whether it’s the farm bill for the next four to five years, or it’s a policy that might impact our industry for the next 100, we want to make sure that we’ve got a seat at the table when those decisions are being made. So I just feel it’s critically important we leverage our voice.”
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