When the president comes for a visit …

On February 7, Michigan State University was part of a historic moment when President Barack Obama visited the MSU campus to sign the Farm Bill. Many of our colleagues were at work behind the scenes, helping the event run smoothly. Others got to be part of the action front and center. And still others have been lending their expertise to the bill’s foundation.

Thanks to Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who was part of the advance team from MSU. The event cost Doug a week, with the myriad security, program and planning meetings beginning on Friday, January 31. But because this was the Farm Bill, CANR was front and center, and Doug did a great job of making sure President Obama learned about the role we all play in turning federal policy into improvements in agricultural production, environmental management, food safety, bioenergy innovation, and community and youth development. Thanks to Doug for all he did to represent us so well.

A big shout-out to Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications and in particular Beth Stuever. In a Michigan Farmer story on Jennifer Vincent Kiel, the magazine’s editor, Jennifer acknowledges the vast contacts and deep understanding of the communications manager. Jennifer said she enjoys working with “the many, many great people at MSU Extension. Beth Stuever is priceless there. I’m always calling on her for help, and she’s always there.” Read the story here: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/mif/MF02Feb14/mif013.pdf

Then there’s Greening Michigan Institute Extension educator Julia Darnton. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee invited Julia to be his guest at the signing of the Farm Bill. Julia was asked to come because she helped the congressman promote his bill “Local Food for Healthy Families,” which is designed to expand SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks. Mark Tower of the Saginaw News featured Julia in an MLive article: http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2014/02/obama_in_east_lansing_saginaw.html

We’ve had other media mentions related to our work. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero mentioned the contributions of Extension and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems to the support of Lansing area food hubs and markets in a Lansing State Journal editorial:

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014302060049&nclick_check=1

MSU student Domonique Clemons experienced what may be the highlight of his life. Invited to attend the Farm Bill signing, the former 4-H’er from Flint got to shake President Obama’s hand. Domonique is a public policy major who helps organize the 4-H Capitol Experience event coming up in March.

But how did we finally get to this moment in the first place? It happened because of people like Dave Schweikhardt, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, who studies farm policy, providing Extension programming on that policy. Dr. Schweikhardt is one of a number of MSU faculty who were tapped as experts by Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s staffers as they worked through the policy changes in the bill.

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