Brad Cook, CPA, Agribusiness Practice Leader at Wipfli LLP (Wipfli), joined the other members of Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership (REAL) Montana’s Class III in Washington D.C. for a five-day educational seminar focused on federal policy. Over the course of the week, the group engaged in a number of sessions with government leaders and influencers covering a wide range of topics including agriculture, forestry, coal production, construction and rail transportation.
Leading the way for Wipfli’s agriculture practice, Cook is no stranger to navigating market challenges to find strategic solutions — this includes staying engaged in the current state of the industry from regional, national and international perspectives. “There were many valuable lessons learned during our time in Washington D.C.,” says Cook. “Among the most important is understanding that with a common voice we can make a difference.”
The class began their engagements by hearing from speakers at the American Farm Bureau Federation office and visiting the U.S. Department of the Interior where they met with fifth-generation Montanan and former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, Secretary Ryan Zinke. Continuing the local connection, the group gathered on Capitol Hill with the Montana Congressional delegation and received briefings from legislative staffers.
Understanding that state and federal policy can intertwine with international economic developments, the REAL Montana group visited the Embassy of India and arranged meetings with representatives from federal agencies including the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Department of Energy and U.S. Trade Representative. They also participated in a commodity price release lockdown simulation at the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service headquarters. A group dinner with members of the Washington AgForestry Leadership Program wrapped up the week’s activities, along with tours of the Holocaust Museum, the Gettysburg battlefield and other historic sites.
The two-year REAL Montana educational program competitively selects each class from a pool of qualified candidates representing a wide variety of agriculture and natural resource industries — selecting emerging and established leaders across the state. REAL Montana is funded through a partnership with Montana State University Extension and private industry. Oversight is provided by an advisory board of industry leaders. Visit www.realmontana.org for more information on the program.