Capital Ideas

Mr. Rater goes to Washington

Between growing up on a small dairy farm in Western New York and working summers on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska, recent SUNY Cobleskill Agricultural Business Management graduate Gabriel Rater has lifelong experience in coping with snow and cold. So when a blizzard prevented him from returning home from a recent trip to Washington, D.C., he wasn’t about to let it stop him from exploring and learning.

Gabe was in the District at a meeting of the Agriculture Future of America 2018 Policy Institute, an organization that invites only a few select U.S. agricultural students to attend each year. His group was able to participate in leadership training sessions and to meet with key legislators and staffers who, in the course of their work, help shape America’s agricultural policies. Gabe himself sought out staffers for U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, both of New York, and met with U.S. Representative John Faso (19th District, Kinderhook).

Then the snowstorm hit, essentially stranding Gabe and several others. Gabe, however, didn’t view the storm as an obstacle, but rather as a great opportunity to learn more about the state of American agriculture from a policymaking perspective. He continued to reach out to the offices of those legislators closely involved in agricultural issues. The topics he was able to discuss ranged from the Farm Bill and its impact on New York State agriculture to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), organic grains, and current issues facing the Mohawk Valley.

When the weather finally let up, Gabe was able to return home – but with new insights into how Washington actually views the subject of agriculture and the people whose livelihood depends on it. “My first realization was how well SUNY Cobleskill had prepared me to discuss these things,” Gabe says. “But I was also struck by the fact that many of the people involved in representing agricultural areas and in setting agriculture policy aren’t fully knowledgeable about some of the subjects they’re called on to deal with.”

Gabe’s experience in the capital has now caused him to consider applying for an internship in Washington in order to learn how he might best contribute to truly informed discussions on national agricultural policy. It has also made him appreciate the education he received at SUNY Cobleskill.

“Coming from a small school doesn’t mean you can’t do big things,” he says. “And having knowledge that many influential people don’t have can give you a huge advantage in dealing with decision-makers.”

Feature photo of Gabe Rater ’18 taken by Mohamed Baligh ’12, Communications & Marketing New Media Specialist

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