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Sue's Views: D.C. trip a reminder of good things in Morris

A week ago, I was in Washington, D.C. It was a great trip, as the daffodils and violets were blooming and I had crab cakes at least once a day for five straight days. Oh, and it didn't snow even once.

But the trip wasn't a vacation, it was part of the annual effort made by the Barnes-Aastad Soil and Water Conservation Research Association. Barnes-Aastad is a support group for the USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory. Four delegates from Barnes-Aastad -- Dean Meichsner, Dan Perkins, Jim Wink and myself -- spent four days on Capitol Hill, visiting with lawmakers about the importance of agriculture research.

I've made this trip before, so I was prepared to spend more time getting through security than I would spend in most of the congressional offices. I expected to visit with congressional staffers who barely look older than my teenaged son and who wouldn't know cuphea from cornflakes. And I wasn't even surprised that it cost $11 for a rice crispie bar and two sodas.

What surprises me every year is how meaningful it is to stand near a senator or representative and hear first hand what is really going on in our government. To shake their hand and have them pause, even if only momentarily, to ask about your hometown and why you're in Washington. To hear them say that this is our government and that they are pleased we're taking a role in it.

This year, there was an even more serendipitous moment. Dean, Jim and I were touring Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office as part of her weekly "Minnesota Morning" event when we hear someone talking about Morris. There was Adam Durand, a 2006 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Morris, talking with a farmer from Waseca. The conversation was about alternative energy and input costs for crop production. Adam was holding a coffee cup emblazoned with the UMM logo and was talking about the unique research collaboration between UMM, the West Central Research and Outreach Center and the Soils Lab.

A lively conversation followed about some of the research underway here, particularly the wind to hydrogen project at the WCROC. I don't understand much of the science involved, so my contribution to the dialogue was a shameless pitch to his young daughters to consider attending UMM so one day they might be greeting constituents in a congressional office.

Other years, highlights have included walking down a Senate hallway behind John McCain, or watching a live CNN report from outside the White House. We have visited the Old Executive Office building, where the vice-president has his office. We have seen the Secretary of Agriculture's office. l have pictures of our group with Senators Klobuchar and Franken, Rep. Collin Peterson and the Administrator of the USDA Agriculture Research Service.

But more than anything else, including the crab cakes, that 10 minute conversation in a cubby in Sen. Klobuchar's office is this year's highlight if only because it reminded me that good things are happening in Morris.

And it's good to be home.