Monday, August 15, 2016

Weeks 9-12: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Thank You

Hello Reader!

For my final blog post of the summer internship, I have decided to combine roughly the last month of my experience at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS). This is almost a complete 180 degree switch from my work in the General Assembly. Both are involved with agriculture but one was a mentally draining job in an air-conditioned building and the other was a physically draining job in the 90, 95, and even 105 degree July heat.
The IFFS exposed me to a community food production/relief standpoint with a non-profit lens. The goal of this organization is to provide hunger relief for the city of Raleigh and Wake county as a whole while also including the seven surrounding counties. The farm I worked at was the 7-acre teaching farm, where community members can volunteer their labor to do their part for helping out others. My duties here included day-to-day harvest of many different vegetable crops, ranging from cucumbers to peppers, squash to arugula, and basil to tomatoes. Daily harvests likely averaged around 80 pounds between the species being grown. Luckily I was also able to gain a practical understanding of food production and post harvest management that I had learned about in several classes along with classes focusing on plant diseases, soil nutrients, and plant maintenance. 
You may wonder how a non-profit organization is able to purchase their equipment, plants, and cooling facilities. The plan for IFFS is roughly a 50/50 split between donations to the community, and the other half being split into restaurant orders and farm stand produce. Restaurant orders usually hold the highest priority because more money can be made off of these transactions, but produce must all be nearly perfect for all sales. Disease prevalence and respiration rates are drastically increased when a plant is injured or stored improperly, and for this aspect of production the IFFS has modified an enclosed trailer with an air conditioning unit and a piece of equipment called a "Cool-bot". This equipment is actually used to "trick" the air conditioning unit to continuously making the area colder, and in this produce trailer it was around 40 degrees. This cool temperature is great to rapidly cool off produce that has been absorbing heat outside, and in removing this plant heat the ethylene production of produce is minimized. Ethylene is the gas that causes produce to ripen quickly, and the most common example are bananas turning brown when not eaten quickly enough because they are very sensitive to ethylene. 
I enjoyed working here for such a relatively short period of time, and I think it showed a great contrast with the first two-thirds of my summer. There are also Burmese refugees that are housed on the land, and they are given a few acres to grow plants and food that interest them so they can potentially become financially independent and escape religious persecution. The refugees are kind enough to have a large gathering each year around harvest time and they made a huge meal for around 20 people. All of their dishes were signature to Burma, and were all very tasty. To see these people so thankful for being able to grow their own food and live in a country with the freedom and rights we are all granted as citizens was very satisfying. 
With that, I conclude the blog posts for the most amazing summer that I have ever experienced. From the people I have met to the knowledge I have gained about public policy, agriculture, and leadership, I can not be more grateful and humbled to have been afforded this opportunity through the program. 

To Dr. Stewart, Dr. Jones, and Sarah Dinger: I would like to sincerely thank each of you for challenging each Warren Fellow to become more informed, to become more professional, and to become better leaders. The work that has been done for the fellows has been astounding, and for that hard work and dedication I send a thanks to you. I have truly enjoyed every meeting and program we have attended, and I am positive that our meetings in the future will be just as electrifying and motivating.

To Mr. Joe and Mrs. Gail Dunn, 
There are many words to describe how appreciative I am of your generosity and commitment to creating this amazing and innovative program. As Henry Adams once said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." When I came across this quote a while back, I knew that Mr. Adolph Warren had definitely embodied this statement. From his influence as an educator on Dr. Stewart and many other students, to the young students now that are able to be a part of the Warren Leadership Program. To be able to have an experience to develop paramount leadership skills and qualities from interacting with many top leaders of our state is definitely a way to inspire future generations to be more educated and involved on the issues affecting our state and our nation. The benefit this program has had on myself and other students preparing for a career post-graduation is truly not quantifiable, and I do not believe there can be a statistic for how important this program has been for each of us. I want to extend my deepest thanks, this program has already had a profound impact on my outlook of life. The internal fire for success has been ignited, and it is sure to expand and translate into my career after graduation.

Kevin Foushee

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Week 8: My last week as an intern in the GA

Welcome to the blog post encompassing my last week as an intern for the Honorable James Langdon at the General Assembly.

To begin with, all I can say when I think of my summer thus far is WOW! Time has flown by very quickly these past eight weeks, and the quote I included last week about how precious time is and how it can't be retrieved has really cemented itself into my mind as I write the last blog post from room 417B. Representatives and senators are working very diligently to finish up session before July 4th so they can do their respective campaigning for re-election and spend some quality time with family members. A lot of the nails in the budget are being tacked in behind closed doors, where conferees hammer out the details that best suit our state as a whole.
One thing that was amazing to observe was the joint session between House and Senate, where members of both chambers were required for the approval of a candidate for the education board. All members were well received by those watching on in the galleries since it was so rare to see our entire legislative body in one room. A roll call vote was done for senators since there was not a voting machine for them, and as usual the House members voted via machine since there are more of them and the House chamber was larger and more accommodating for everyone.
My last week was exciting due to the fact that I was able to assist in organizing an entire meeting for the House Agriculture Committee. This is a diligent and tedious process, since every representative on the committee must get a copy of the bill being debated, the summary of that bill, and any other related documents such as proposed committee substitutes. For this meeting, changes were being made to the 2016 NC Farm Act, with four or five changes coming in as a proposed committee substitute. Staff members, chairmen, and committee members each get the exact same copies of each important item, contained in a labeled folder for easy set-up.
I am sad to see session coming to an end so quickly, but as previously stated I have learned so much through this opportunity that I can not regret any part of this experience and I am truly humbled to learn about our states legislative process and gain an appreciation for those involved with public service through this program. The people involved with this process are usually very unique and high quality individuals with interesting stories and career paths, and I am glad to have met such a large number of amazing people. Especially Mr. Thomas Goffe, who is the legislative assistant for Mr. Langdon and also the person I spent the majority of my time with while in the office. Tom took a lot of time out of his schedule to help me understand the legislative process and push me to develop a critical eye of anything in the news and to think critically about politics when evaluating the validity of a persons statements. Thank you for being so welcoming and encouraging, Tom.
To the man himself, Mr. JH Langdon, not a single day went by that you did not give some bit of knowledge or advice that I will be able to apply for the rest of my life. An amazing individual with a life centered on public service and agriculture, you are truly a great example of how humans should act and interact with others. It is sad to say that the Johnston county residents of District 28 will not be represented by your many years of wisdom and experience in many crucial areas our state needs the most focus on. I am so grateful to have been placed with you, and it is easy to say that I learned more this summer about daily interactions and life as a whole than I ever thought to expect.

With as much sincerity as words on a screen are able to muster, thank you.

Kevin Foushee

Friday, June 24, 2016

Week 7: SB770 NC Farm Act 2016, FFA, Life Advice

Welcome to my agricultural adventures of the seventh week at the General Assembly.

"Time is the one thing that can never be retrieved." - Winston Churchill

Wow, how accurate this quote is in describing the past two months for me. I have not had one bad day this summer, anything that may annoy me or irk me is quickly forgotten when I reflect on how fortunate I am to work in the General Assembly in room 417B. As our state aims to reach $100 billion dollars in revenue by the year 2020, it has become apparent that our state legislators are one of the key pieces in reaching this huge goal. With our state having one of the most diverse amount of crops, due to the difference in our many soil types and climates, we are at an advantage to be one of the largest producers of several crops and animals in the entire nation. The Warren Leadership Program is great for many reasons, the main takeaway for me being an exposure to the vast amount of opportunities available in agriculture, with a leadership presence needed to ensure that we do not forget our rich history involving farming, but rather take steps toward progress and maximization of our resources to make our state one of the overall greatest. 
Senator Brent Jackson, the sponsor for Senate Bill 770, has been working diligently in getting the 2016 NC Farm Act passed and into the budget before the end of the short session. This bill passed on the floor of the Senate Monday, and was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday. If the proposed committee substitute is found favorable next week, it will be directed to finance. This is somewhat of an omnibus bill, as there are several sections (19) that pertain to many facets of agriculture in our state that need attention. One of these sections deals with providing the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services the authority to enforce bedding programs that are not properly constructed, sanitized or tagged. This is crucial in protecting the spread of disease and or infections that can occur to animals, which can become very costly to the owner if it isn't handed properly.
My love for agriculture began before high school, but was ignited into something more relatable to a passion when I reached high school and joined the FFA (it used to stand for Future Farmers of America, but now is referred to as the National FFA Organization to be more inclusive than just "Farmers"). In just four short years, I was a part of several Career Development Teams that won the state championship in Agricultural Tools and Materials, and in Nursery/Landscaping, while being fortunate enough to win a national championship in Nursery/Landscaping my junior year. This incredible organization instilled values of honesty, leadership and respect while also rewarding those involved with pride and accomplishment. This week, the North Carolina State FFA Convention was held at the Raleigh Convention Center. I was lucky enough to attend the closing ceremony where my high school chapter placed second in the state for Nursery/Landscape competition. This was not my main reason for attending, as the main objective was to see my girlfriend installed as the 2016-2017 State FFA Secretary. I enjoyed reliving my memories of high school FFA, and I am looking forward to seeing her growth in the areas of agricultural leadership and personal development. 

This week has been incredibly humbling and productive. As the quote at the top indicates that you can never retrieve time, it is sure that I will seek to always maximize my time and enjoy every bit of it. 


Friday, June 17, 2016

Week 6: Teacher Pay, Proposed Income Tax Cap, Networking

Week 6 was hectic, with many discussions about what was going to be modified with the budget now that the conference committees are getting together to mash out the details for the short session. With these committees meeting essentially behind closed doors to iron out the rest of the budget, people begin to wonder when the short session will end, and most people may say shortly after the beginning of July.
One of the items for the budget receiving a lot of attention is the proposed salary amount for teachers in the coming years. As North Carolina is ranked 41st in the nation for teacher pay, while being 9th in the nation for population, we should definitely aim to provide the highest quality of education to the large amount of students in our great state. The quality of an education begins with teachers, and as my role model is an agriculture teacher, I believe that there should be an emphasis on providing educators with the resources they need to reflect the amount of work that they put in. The House is at a 3% raise, while the Senate is at a 6.5% raise. Who knows where the percentage for the raise will end up by the end of the short session, but there is certainly a lot of noise being made to raise is as high as possible. Fourteen teachers were arrested this week after marching nearly twenty miles from Durham to the Capitol building, and then protesting at the intersection of Fayetteville and Morgan streets by blocking traffic from moving during rush hour.
Another item that is being discussed is the proposed cap on income tax, at 5.5%. Since this proposal is set to be included in the state constitution, it is very controversial since there are many scenarios where this figure would not benefit our state. Most people believe that our economy is too variable to set the bar at this height, and that income tax is too crucial for the state to have a capped percentage on it.
The most valuable information that I have received since beginning the internship is by far that networking is one of the most valuable tools that one can use. Establishing connections with people that are in similar fields, or even in two totally unrelated areas, is imperative for future encounters around the legislature and even the entire state. I have gained a handful of friends this summer that I will most likely be in contact with for many years down the road, and I am very grateful that the opportunity even exists for me to meet such influential people involved with legislature and local governments. With the internship coming to an end, it is easy to say that networking is one of the best tools that one can have in their arsenal. You can never know who you will meet or how they may impact your life, so it is best not to pass up on the opportunity to meet them and learn about their story. We all have different experiences that make us who we are, and I find it enjoyable to learn about those who are working around me to see what makes those individual persons special. 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 5: Industrial Hemp, Data Tracking, & Conferees

Hello, and welcome to my fifth week recap of working for the Honorable James H. Langdon in the House of Representatives. I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Mr. Langdon for taking the time to help me understand the legislative process during this internship while being a mentor, providing life advice, and sharing his experiences of being involved with agriculture and education. I should preface the previous statement to say the real thank you goes to Mr. Joe and Gail Dunn, because without their graciousness in creating the Warren Leadership Program the opportunity for me to learn from Mr. Langdon would not have happened. Also, without them, countless future students would not get the opportunity to combine their love and interest for agriculture with public policy, personal growth and leadership as my cohorts, previous fellows, and myself have benefitted from so much. The resources that are provided to us as fellows is bar none, and I do not know how to express with words the sincere gratitude I have toward the Dunn family.
To transition into the work of week 5, I must say another thing about opportunities that would not have occurred without this program. The legislative assistant for Representative Cleveland from Onslow County came to me and asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting on data tracking hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council last week. I jumped at the opportunity to attend and learn how technology is being used for campaigning in our modern world. Little did I know, the meeting was held on the 28th floor of the Wells Fargo building on Fayetteville Street. I will confess I have never been that high up in a building, and it was amazing. It overlooked the whole city, and we ate a delicious lunch and learned about technology that would help representatives better serve their constituents by keeping track of recent conversations, frequency of contact, and monitoring the overall vibe of the constituents they serve for projects that need attention or things that need to be done in their district.
The big item this week for agriculture was in the discussion to amend the industrial hemp pilot program (House Bill 992). First, Senate Bill 313 was passed, and $200,000 was to be raised in order to start the program. Industrial hemp is an unknown subject to most, but I have done a few papers on its cultivation during my time at NC State. First off, it is not the same thing as marijuana for several different reasons. It is grown closely together to stimulate a rapid upward growth as plants "compete" for light which in turn blocks sunlight for weeds that may grow beneath. Also, the psychoactive compound in marijuana is THC and ranges from 3% to 20% for medical purposes, while industrial hemp would by definition have levels below 0.3%. It would be impossible to get "high" from industrial hemp, and its uses are endless. Interestingly, Rudolph Diesel actually designed his engine to be able to run off of hemp oil and other vegetable oils, and hemp was used for sails and ropes for World War 2. It can be used to construct the walls of homes and studies are showing that the micropores created by "HempCrete" actually filter out toxic chemicals and can help reduce the amount of seizures in children that have sensitive airborne illnesses.
The House officially rejected the Senates amended appropriations on Thursday, and now there will be conferees appointed from both chambers to create a "line of best fit" for where the monies should be utilized. This is essentially where the final decisions are made for this years budget, until next year when long session is done to recreate it. I look forward to seeing the interactions of senate and house members, but both chambers seem to have different ways of doing things in session so it will be interesting to see "how the sausage is made."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Week 4: Memorial Day, Congressional Races, and the Senate

Week four began with a Monday off work for remembrance of those who have served our country. It was especially important for me this year because it was the first time I was not able to tell my father happy Memorial Day for his service in Vietnam, making it more than just a day of remembrance for me but also a day of reflection.
On Tuesday, Mr. Langdon was already in the office when I arrived, and he had a box on his desk that I hadn't seen before but I did not question the contents. When we were about to leave for a committee meeting he told me that he had made several pens over the holiday weekend and that he would like for me to have first pick.  He opened the box to reveal five or six beautiful pens that he had made from various types of wood that he turned using a lathe. It has definitely been the best gift I have received in a long time, but the pen symbolizes more to me than a gift and I am very humbled that he thought of me to have one.
Enough about me, lets get to the politics of week 4. The congressional races have been very heated, especially in District 2 with Renee Elmers (the incumbent) and George Holding. It is unique because they are both already in congress, but since redistricting occurred it has put the two going head to head. Most surprising about these races is the 13th district, which has.... 17! Yep, 17 republican candidates. It has 5 democratic candidates as well, so there will eventually be a battle between two of the now 22 that are in the race. Is there a correlation between the amount of republican candidates in the 13th district race and the amount that ran for the presidential race? I am not sure, but 17 candidates for one party nomination is a LOT.
As for the General Assembly, there have been a lot of Senate committee meetings this week. As they prepare their amended appropriations act titled House Bill 1030, they are scrambling to get things the way they like. The word going around is that the budgets will be very similar in flavor, which is helpful to the overall process so that both chambers don't have to meet in the middle on a figure if one  plans to spend more than the other. Now, instead, the differences in where the money is appropriated to will be negotiated. This is less stressful since the conference committees will only need to separate their allotted amount in the way that best pleases both chambers.
There is talk around the capitol that session may end in the beginning of July, and to reduce headaches I hope for the representatives and senators that it does. I am absolutely blessed to have even experienced one week at the General Assembly, and the selfish part of me wants it to last a few more weeks longer to experience as much as I can while I am a part of the Warren Leadership Program. No matter when the short session ends, I can already say that the experience has been a life-changing one that I will never forget.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Week 3: The Farm Act, Proposed Committee Substitutes, Random Thoughts

Hello to you!

The third week has been just as enjoyable as the first two, I really do look forward to coming to office 417B every day and learning about the legislative process and networking with those who have an appreciation (and patience) for how bills become laws. After the bills are introduced into the House and are voted upon and adopted, they are sent to the Senate for modifications, or what is called a proposed committee substitute (PCS). These PCS are various changes to the original bill but are not exactly amendments.
The NC Farm Act of 2016, which is House Bill 993 and Senate Bill 770, was passed by the Senate on May 26th. The Senate made various changes to the original house bill, and the PCS had 19 different sections for the bill that dealt with many topics including bedding sanitation, permits for construction, and my favorite section that dealt with authorization of Wildlife Resources Commission and APHIS to cull wild swine from aircraft with permission of the landowner that they are roaming upon (Dream Job?!).
Just a few random thoughts, excuse the rambling but I just have a few subjects to touch that speaks to my personality. My favorite part of the legislative office building is the snack bar in the basement. The term "snack bar" does not adequately describe the cafe, and the size of the portions that you get are nowhere near a "snack". I enjoy going to go see Ms. Doris and order a breakfast sandwich before a long day of committee meetings and sessions. For the portion size and price, it beats a CookOut tray in both categories to give some perspective to future fellows.
Another part of legislative work that is awesome are the groups that provide ice cream after lunch for all of the employees and lobbyists on hot days. I realize that my random thoughts essentially translate into my favorite parts of the job that are food related, but I am just trying to convey my admiration and appreciation for it. Also to guide/inspire those who are a part of the program in the future to not miss any ice cream social and to enjoy breakfast once or twice a week on the first floor of the LOB.

Until next week,