Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Using C-SPAN as a Teaching Tool in Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy Courses

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Using C-SPAN as a Teaching Tool in Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy Courses

Article excerpt


Agricultural and natural resources policy courses focus on public policy and its impact on the structure and financial performance of the agricultural and natural resources sectors, nationally and internationally. Different approaches are used in policy analysis, but focal points tend to be the political process, affected stakeholders, public participation, solutions to policy problems, and explaining the structural nature and factors influencing the policy problem. Discussion on national public policy issues tends to culminate in Washington, D.C. and involves the White House, senators, congressmen, their staff, lobbyists, and various sorts of policy experts. One outstanding way to incorporate a national perspective into these policy courses is to include actual discussion and historical perspectives that center on the "drama" that takes place in Washington as the public policy process produces laws, regulations, and real-world public policy. C-SPAN is one way to accomplish this.

C-SPAN is an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network. It is a non-profit cable-satellite television network with three channels and a radio station. Most cable and satellite television systems include at least one or two of their channels. It is best-known for gavel-to gavel coverage of all U. S. Congress sessions. Its content is unedited and includes congressional hearings, White House press briefings, presidential speeches, and general governmental meetings. There are regular interviews of individuals involved with current events. Most important, their website includes a video archive of past programming and other historical content. Lots of this content involves agricultural and natural resources policy issues.

What C-SPAN Offers

Currentness is a main asset of the network. Public policy issues are most interesting and relevant when they are topical. At the federal level, the Farm Bill is debated on about a five-year cycle and is the primary vehicle for defining public policy that affects agriculture, food, and natural resources. There are plenty of publications that describe the Farm Bill and that address the issues associated with it. However, only a discussion of the current Farm Bill will focus on immediate concerns, directions, and consequences. C-SPAN provides that currentness.

The network provides live coverage of both Senate and House debate on the Farm Bill, with that coverage easily retrievable from its video archives. Searching "farm bill" on its website ( produced dozens of related events, discussion, and lectures. These included testimony of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the department's current budget request before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture (lasting two and one-half hours), a discussion of the Farm Bill by Secretary Vilsack after it passed, the White House signing ceremony for the Farm Bill, expert discussion of negotiations over the Farm Bill, panel discussions over the future of American agriculture and natural resources, and discussions of the Farm Bill by relevant House and Senate committees and subcommittee chairs.

Searching "agriculture" yields dozens of related videos on topics like government nutrition programs, Florida's cattle industry, factors that impact U. …

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