Posted: March 30, 2023

In eighth grade, Darryl Blakey didn't have his sights set on Washington -- or Penn State -- but the associate director of state government affairs for FMC Corp. has found his calling.

Photo: Matthew Lester

Photo: Matthew Lester

I grew up in Philadelphia, in an environment with no real connection to agriculture or where our food came from. In the eighth grade, Jean Lonie, the agriculture career and technical education coordinator for W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, came to my middle school and talked about the school, which had animals and a farm. I thought about my cat and told myself, "why not?" and applied. Once I was accepted to W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, my life was changed forever, from making lifelong friendships to joining organizations such as FFA and 4-H. I am indebted to the teachers and mentors who created a space for me to judge and show livestock across the country.

I didn't start my college experience at Penn State. I first went down South to attend Tuskegee University, but it ended up being too hot and far from family. I returned to Philadelphia after my first year and took a semester off to figure out my next move. Many friends were attending Penn State, so I applied to the Berks campus. My major was always animal science, and once I got to campus, I began getting involved with many clubs and even became the Student Government Association president at Berks. While at University Park, I continued my involvement with student organizations, such as the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, Ag Advocates, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences.

My most pivotal moment at Penn State was during my senior year in Dan Kniffen's (assistant professor of animal science) advanced beef management course when he had the class meet with leadership in Washington, D.C. That course showed me how I could work on agricultural policy and, ultimately, what I wanted to do with my career.

Most people don't have a clue about how their food is grown or produced, and some of those same people tend to be in positions of power in our nation's capital. I wanted to be someone in the room who could apply my knowledge to assist the needs of everyday farmers and ranchers, which ultimately protects our national security.

Once I graduated in May of 2015, I headed to Washington, D.C., to start my journey as the first Penn State intern with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). After my internship, I began working for Chairman K. Michael Conaway at the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture; there, I had the privilege to work on policy issues such as the 2018 Farm Bill. I then returned to NCBA, where I advised the chief executive officer, board of directors and senior leadership on derivative market policy. Most recently, I served as the associate director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and as the policy adviser to Chairman Heath P. Tarbert.

Currently, I work as the associate director of state government affairs at FMC Corp., an agricultural sciences company that advances farming through innovative and sustainable crop-protection technologies. I am responsible for crafting and implementing the engagement strategy with government officials, regulators and businesses across North America. Along with other strategic initiatives, I assist senior executives with potential opportunities to mitigate risk and increase commercial growth.

When I think of the most pressing issues of our time, the issue that is front of mind is climate change and its impact on food insecurity, affecting millions globally. This is why I'm excited to work at a firm like FMC, which continues to develop the right tools and technology so growers can continue producing more with less while protecting their crops.

Within 10 years, I would like to see my son preparing to graduate from Penn State pursuing a degree of his choice, but I'm hoping it can be from the College of Ag Sciences. From a professional perspective, I'd like to be in a position where I can positively impact and best serve the nation as various policies are developed to impact America's agriculture and financial interests on both the national and international stage.