Burrell Calls Congressional Ag Internship
Keith Burrell admits that he only has an indirect connection to Alabama agriculture, but the Tuskegee University student says what he learned during three months as an intern with U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers was a “life-changing” experience that opened his eyes to new possibilities for rural development.That’s why Burrell says he is already recommending the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Congressional Agricultural Internship program to others at Tuskegee University.
“Oh most definitely I would recommend it!” said Burrell. “I’m already in the process of meeting with the dean of the ag school (Dr. Walter Hill) to see how we can market the program to the students for the spring of 2008.”Applications are now being accepted until Nov. 30 for the second year of the program, which strives to give college students with an interest in agriculture, natural resources and rural development a hands-on look at the workings of government and public policy.Federation President Jerry A. Newby says the program is helping Alabama develop agricultural leadership. “This is a wonderful opportunity for college students to get an inside view of just how Washington works on today’s rural and farming issues,” said Newby. “This program will provide a solid foundation for our future agricultural leaders.””We are very fortunate to have three land-grant colleges in Alabama — Auburn University, Alabama A&M and Tuskegee University — and also three members of Congress on the House Agriculture Committee, so it presents a great opportunity for these students to find out more about how Washington, D.C. works,” said Keith Gray, the Federation’s director of National Affairs.Burrell was one of three students who worked from January through April this year, serving as the first-ever members of the Congressional Agricultural Internship program in the offices of Alabama’s representatives. James Berry of Auburn University worked in the office of Rep. Jo Bonner and Danyelle Starks of Alabama A&M University in Huntsville worked with Rep. Bud Cramer’s office.”Both of my grandfathers were farmers and both of my parents actually grew up farming, but they had regular jobs. So I only had an indirect connection to farming,” said Burrell, who is currently working on his master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics. “But growing up in a rural environment — I’m from Thomaston, Ala., which is a town of about 500 people — I really had not so much a farming interest but a rural development interest that can be tied to farming as well.”Burrell said the program afforded him the chance to sit in on several farm bill hearings with the House Agriculture Committee and also to research bio-fuels for potential legislation.”It was probably one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had, just the opportunity to see the government work,” said Burrell. “To actually be there during the policy-making process was just outstanding. I had never been in that environment before.””I think Congressman Rogers is great for Alabama,” Burrell added. “I think he’s great for the Third Congressional District and the experience of working with his office was life-changing. And the opportunity that was presented to me by the Alabama Farmers Federation made that possible.”Rogers was likewise pleased, calling the program “unique” and praising Burrell’s work. “Keith Burrell did an outstanding job for my office, and I certainly appreciate his service,” said Rogers. “I highly recommend this program to any student interested in agriculture and public policy, and thank Alfa for helping provide this important opportunity for our state.”For consideration, applicants must currently be an undergraduate or graduate student in the College of Agriculture with at least 60 hours, the most recent 15 hours having been completed in the Alabama Land-Grant University System.For more information about requirements, stipends or applications for the Congressional Agricultural Internship Program, call the College of Agriculture at your university or Millie Hawes at the Alabama Farmers Federation at (334) 613-4268 or email MHawes@AlfaFarmers.org.Applications may also be downloaded at www.AlfaFarmers.org.