Students Advocate for Bees and Butterflies in Washington, D.C.

October 24, 2016

by Emma Marks, WC Freshman

Each fall, Wilmington College’s Agriculture Department sends a delegation of students to Washington, D.C., to learn about citizen lobbying. This year, a group of 25 freshmen to senior students focused their lobby efforts on the topic of protecting pollinators. The trip prepared students for more in-depth lobbying experiences and gave them confidence to communicate with the officials they elect.

(PICTURED) Against a backdrop featuring the U.S. Capitol, members of the Wilmington College contingent flash the “WC sign” during their lobbying visit to the Nation’s Capital.

At the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) headquarters, Jim Cason, associate executive secretary for strategic advocacy, spoke to students about the basics of the lobbying process. He explained the fundamentals of meeting with their representatives — from introducing themselves to formulating a succinct request for legislative action He also spoke about FCNL’s mission to promote a “just world.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 30% of food consumed requires the help of pollinators, yet bees are dying at an alarming rate. Students examined the predicted impact of this colony collapse when they attended meetings at the American Farm Bureau Federation, the USDA and the Sierra Club. These meetings brought into focus the need for legislative action. Students discovered that, although research clearly documents a decline in bee population, questions still remain about the cause. Potential culprits are as diverse as global warming, neonicotinoid pesticide use, habitat los, and varroa mites.

After lobbying, student advocate Sara Pope said, “I feel like I made a difference by speaking with my representative.” Other participants said they felt well prepared to meet with their representatives, and two upperclassmen were recommended for internships because of the quality of their advocacy.

“These trips offer our students invaluable lessons on the complex and often-challenging nature of policy development,” said Corey Cockerill, associate professor of communication arts and agricultural communications. “They offer a real hands-on lesson in the power of engagement.”

Lobby trips are offered through Wilmington College each spring and fall semesters, and include for-credit options via the course TR291: Political Advocacy Practicum. Trip costs range from $175 to $275, with some out-of-pocket expenses.