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Nebraska youth hopeful for regenerative ag, sustainability after D.C. conference

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(Nebraska News Connection) Three members of Nebraska's student-run climate advocacy organization Students for Sustainability were among the youngest participants at the recent Citizens Climate Lobby conference in Washington, D.C.

Evalina Sain, executive director of the group and an incoming senior at Omaha Central High School, said one of their takeaways is how many values farmers and environmentalists share. She pointed out although some city dwellers may be inclined to tell farmers what they should be doing differently, farmers are, in her words, "some of the most sustainable people we know."

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"Because they're so incredibly connected with nature, and their values are just rooted in what they can provide for the earth and what the earth can provide for them," Sain noted. "So, really prioritizing our farmers is so crucial as we transition towards a sustainable future within our state."

Sain stressed the nonpartisan nature of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, which starts all its meetings with an "appreciation." Nebraska attendees used the occasion to thank their congressional delegation for supporting the National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture, which recently broke ground in Lincoln.

Sain added they met with Senator Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., personally and with legislative staff for the rest of the delegation. One of their "asks" was for lawmakers to prioritize helping Nebraska farmers get Inflation Reduction Act funds for regenerative agriculture.

"If we want them to transition, it shouldn't be such a financial burden on them," Sain argued. "Millions of dollars were dedicated to building this across the nation but it's extremely difficult for farmers to get access to these programs."

Jacki Petrow, a recent Bellevue High School graduate who plans to pursue environmental studies with an emphasis in policy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the conference made her realize climate change doesn't have to be a polarizing issue.

"Being able to be in D.C. and seeing how people come together, especially on these topics like renewable agriculture," Petrow explained, "And learning about how it's really good for everyone has really just cemented my excitement for this topic."

Petrow added the experience also alleviated some of her concerns about environmental studies as a career path.

"We need bipartisan support to get things done, and there is bipartisan support there," Petrow emphasized. "It was really incentivizing and helped me see this as more of a positive future for myself and not like I'm going to have to fight people."