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Ryan Amberg

The End of an Era

Congressman Amberg???

Well my reign in Washington has ended. I am back in Stanley N.Y. working at the family business and waiting for Cornell to inevitably resume. The positive is that I seem to have brought the rain back to NY, which I can see we needed badly since my lawn is brown.  In returning, I realize the hype and nonstop action of D.C. has ended for now. I no longer have a constantly changing to do list. I got my hands on so many different issues, talked to farmers from all over my district,  sat in on meetings with everything from the Farm Bureau to a meeting with Speaker Boehner. I had a great time in D.C. and realized it is a path that may not be a lost cause for me. I enjoyed it and could see myself taking a small part in it in the future. However I think the small part is key. The senators and congressman on either side of the aisle need to realize that this is a service, not a career choice. At some point, all you start worrying about is re-election. Sometimes you need to stick to you platform and take the popularity hit, otherwise as you have seen in the past weeks, nothing gets done because everyone is trying to grab a piece of positive press.

I believe that District 29, whose backbone is in agriculture, has a strong supporter in Tom Reed. Working in his office, I saw he never stopped moving, has a strong head on his shoulders, and listens; taking opinions into account. I think we need to be informed as a populace and not always take shots at our representatives if we haven’t taken the time to actually look into the problem ourselves. I think if we do this, we can play a much bigger role in political decision-making. With more and more people in every district and state in America, we need to realize that elections will play a key role. With more people, it is harder to hear everyone’s opinion, so we need to ask questions early, and often, to elect the right representative.

Working on a number of sides in the agricultural circle now, I see a clear picture of how things fit together and what can be done better on all sides. I have worked in small agribusiness with my parents, Amberg’s Nursery. I’ve also worked in agriculture research with in the grape breeding department at NYSAES in Geneva. There I  meet researchers from around the world. Being part of the Farm Bureau, I’ve seen the communal fellowship between farmers needed to create change.  Working in D.C., I got a full view of  the challenges and their effects.

Seeing all these sides has taught me more than I could learn in a class discussion. I not only have a clearer picture of the pieces, but also ideas of how I could contribute to their change and improvement.

Corns Future

Just went to a interesting briefing on the corn genome and the future of corn research. Mostly it reinforced my beliefs that the future of the worlds fuel supply will have to be from a constantly developing agriculture. We will have to change adapt to keep up with yield needs and the needs of a growing world. The big issue with plant research is the benefits are not instant they take almost a decade to see depending on the relative speed of the crops growth cycle. This means that R and D for plant and ag research is a huge investment in the future.
Some people would say the future is in sustainable agriculture and with that they apply that this is in a small farm organic system. This may be true for consumers that can afford the high cost that comes with organic food markets. However for the majority of the populace we will have to really on low impact conventional agriculture to feed the world a purely organic arlum system will not be effective we need to combine traditional breeding practices and gene modifications to continue to improve out yield per acre considering land will become less and less plentiful. As with any new technology there is risk but there are enough controls that we can verify its safety and impact.
Some people would say that we are restricting our gene banks by limiting the diversity of plants but in actuality we are creating new diversity as we breed new plants and we also have a USDA program that is a literal Noah’s arc of germplasm for many commercial plants that we grow today. The reason that the government has so much influence on the research and protection of ag species is because it is long term has little profit potential in it starting stages making it difficult to be supported by the private market place.

Working during the Debt Crisis

The debt crisis everyone one is talking about it. In reality it will affect us all drastically in some way as students and as future agricultural leaders. Being behind the scenes while all this is going down is exciting and confusing. You see there are two sides of the debate one saying we need to cut and balance our budget stopping the spending of our money that doesn’t exist. This is more of the small business look at the government saying if we don’t have it we can’t spend it. On the other hand there is the idea that we can’t cut things Americans are used to and that once the economy stabilizes it will fix and we need a more timely approach to fixing it.
The issue is we are currently standing still, to me that the answer seems obvious. You can’t continue to run a country on debt it won’t last. You have to look at this from a purely business situation. For example you can’t run any successful business for ten years without any profit. I feel we need to look at the Government the same way the American government is living beyond it means. We see on the news everyday families living on credit cards and then losing it all. We are at this point our government is living on credit.
It seems to me that working here you get a mix of views. Some middle ground Americans would say we need a compromise that has been tried and did not pass through the senate. The debt ceiling cannot keep rising somehow we have to slow it down to a stop this is not going to happen through more spending. I cant believe that balancing the budget and reducing our debt is a controversial issue.

Last Week in D.C.

Working in a congressional office is an interesting experience and coming down to the last week here, I look back on my days in the office. I started working the day after Memorial Day and was put into an interesting situation from the start helping do everything I could in the office from taking constituent opinions and giving tours, to researching topics and sharing data with staff so they could stay informed on the issues. I worked on issues from immigration to dairy regulations, invasive species, ethanol, the debt ceiling, etc. It has been a good experience being on the leg-end side of the Hill.  Being one of the cogs in the big wheel has given me greater appreciation for the men and women in Congress. It also opened my eyes to the waste of Washington and the government in general. The problem lies in what I believe are the views of a good majority of Americans. We believe we can’t keep spending money, but feel almost entitled to.  To cut spending, we need to restructure and accept the consequences of having less. I believe we need to change and go back to our fundamental American ideals; pulling ourselves up to become more independent.

Ethanol–is it really worth it?

Since ethanol was invented, it has taken up a good portion of the renewable resources spotlight and created a movement of people backing it from environmentalists, to corn farmers, to the auto industry. In reality the ethanol industry has no “legs” to stand on, so to speak.  The current industry relies on government programs to allow it to be competitive in the current market. Without these programs, it would not be economical. Currently regulations make ethanol cheaper than gasoline, when in reality, it costs more. Because of this, we have created a false market through the use of subsidies and other government influences.

Ethanol is a product created from plant components. Today corn is the prime crop used to produce ethanol. This makes it a very attractive product for corn farmers, allowing them to sell corn at a higher price.  The disadvantage is that ethanol creates a lack of crop diversity and it raises the price in corn, which directly affects the price of food and the price of animal products, due to the increased cost of feed.

Without these government regulations that basically chose ethanol as their sponsored alternative fuel, I think you would see a shift in the market place to be more innovative and find a fuel source that is not an inferior product to gasoline.

To me it seems simple that we could save money by cutting programs that help artificially hold up ethanol. This might lead to more innovation for new fuel sources and realistic prices for corn.

A Capitol Fourth

Picture from my phone just in front of Washington Monument Capitol Side

Picture from my phone just in front of Washington Monument Capitol Side

Another week has gone by. This last week was a recess week for Congress meaning that we are not in session giving everyone time back with their family and districts. That being said, last week was one of the busiest of the year for Washington visitors. Tourists filled the Capitol on vacation for the Independence Day weekend. The metro’s were clogged and the city was full of people unsure of where to stand–whether a metro car or an escalator. In case you would like to know the rules, when riding the escalator, for courtesy, you should stand on the right side so people can pass you on the left.

This week was spent playing catch up and getting ready for the coming week of in session work. I was able to go to a meeting on trade and learn some of the current issues such as the Columbian agreement. This is a interesting one because the agreement that was made during the Bush administration still has not made it into use. This has been sort of a, for lack of better words, “slap in the face to the Columbians.” They are our best ally in South America and we are not able to give them a viable agreement for four years now. The reason we are waiting is because the President believes labor issues still need to be solved in Columbia, even though in my opinion a good trade agreement should help labor issues in their country.

Besides work, I was able to get out this weekend and see the parade and fireworks. I was not only able to see the Budweiser Clydesdales, but I also got to pet the Budweiser Dalmatian. I was at the Capitol Fourth concert where the highlight was Steve Martin playing Banjo. The fireworks were good, but after sprinting the mall to get closer before they started, the smoke ruined some of the awe of the display.

In all, the 4th of July in D.C. is a crazy experience with hundreds of thousands of people competing for the perfect spot on the mall to celebrate.

Ag Appropriations is Finished and so is Rep. Weiner

Ag Appropriations has past as well as the Weiner scandal. It was a interesting time filled with a lot of hussle to research amendments presented on the floor and a lot of phone calls. Ag Appropriations is when Congress decides what the spending allotment for agriculture will be in the coming year. It deals with everything from research to food stamps and allows for the allocation of funds to certain projects and inevitable cuts to others.
Since Appropriations has finished, I have been working on a number of subjects from Marcellus Shale drilling, to gaming regulations for U.S. casinos. Gaming regulations in New York is a really touchy issue between balancing the economy with the needs of casinos in the state.
Recently sitting in a meeting with our agriculture legislative aid, I had a chance meeting with a prominent NY farm constituent. It was fascinating to hear some of the real concerns from NY farmers about immigration policy and its effects on the future of my district’s agricultural impact. We also picked up two new interns, so my responsibility on new issues has increased, giving me more research and development tasks looking at positions on new and upcoming issues.
Besides the typical work day, I recently met with former Attorney General John Ashcroft. So far, this was my favorite moment in D.C.! I wasn’t expecting his continuing passion for our country’s future. He was an empowering speaker with a great sense of humor. He was able to answer all the questions thrown at him with ease and actually put a hush on the democratic side of the isle. His answers were clear and to the point and made me realize how little you need to say to make a huge impact.

Weiner resigns after his twitter scandal and his prior press conference saying he would not resign.

Weiner resigns after his twitter scandal and his prior press conference saying he would not resign.

Chance Encounters

So far I’ve met an impressive list of D.C. movers and shakers:

John Boehner (Speaker of the House),
Michelle Bachman (presidential candidate),
Don Rumsfeld,
Colin Powell,
John Ashcroft, and
Ron Paul.

It’s been great working in a place that can shock you at every turn and where there is never a dull moment!

Boehner the First Congressman I met in D.C. also the current Speaker of the House

Boehner the First Congressman I met in D.C. also the current Speaker of the House

Second Week on the Job

My second week in D.C. went great, moving up in the chain and starting to take on some serious challenges and tasks in the office. Seeing some weakness and holes in the office structure for constituent support, I was able to take control after being left as the only intern in the office to really patch up some problems and create better foundations for constituents. I completely overhauled the tour systems and also the response systems we have in place. I am also in the process of creating an organized system that we will be able to transfer between shifts in staff. This ability to transition will give us greater flexibility and ability to transfer responsibilities within the staff.

On another side I was able to participate in some lectures with some great leaders. For example, last week a speech by Ralph Nader, not in my opinion a man with great views, but he does have a fairly strong support base. This week I will also see former Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld.

Last week we were in recess, so I walked on the floor, which is an interesting experience that really puts our government in perspective. I was also able to get a behind-the-scenes look in the Speaker’s office and walk along the Speaker’s terrace–one of the best views of D.C.

There is no shortage of things to do and see in D.C. I spent my weekend talking with other interns from across the country and visiting the mall.

I am hoping to get over to USDA sometime this week and also take on more responsibilities in agriculture policy with Ag Appropriations coming up.

First Day

First weekend in D.C. went great. Now on to the first day of work. The first day you never know how things will go, but thankfully it was great. I never had time to think if I enjoyed it or not spent my whole day bustling through the Capitol and learning all the little technical things email, phone, tours, congressman position on hot button issues etc. I learned more about the Capitol in one day than I have learned in my life. The progression of my day included arrival to Longworth, my office building, and finding the office. Then I learned about the email system and how to collect and document all the letters the congressman receives. I also had my first tour of the Capitol getting a look at how hard it is to get around without an I.D. since it takes 24 hours to process your information to be given a pass. It was interesting seeing how easy it would be to go into the Capitol and never have to come out it has it all cafeterias, tunnels, it even has its own small subway. After the tour I spent some time working on emails from people in the district, then another constituent, and another tour. So far so good. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.

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