University of Maryland Extension

Dr. Nathaniel Tablante: From Extension to Legislation

Extension Poultry Specialist and Veterinarian in the Veterinary Medicine Department, Dr. Nathaniel Tablante has spent the last seven months of his sabbatical leave serving as a Congressional Fellow in the office of Representative Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA-02), where he has advised Bishop on issues affecting agriculture (particularly the poultry industry), education, food safety, and public health.  

Tablante has prepared background memos, briefing materials, questions, and testimonies for hearings on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and other related agencies, all the while providing Congressman Bishop with an agricultural perspective essential for successful legislation.

“While veterinarians who can address these issues are employed in various federal agencies such as the USDA and FDA, the task of dealing with agricultural, including poultry, issues is left mainly to legislative staff in Congress,” Tablante explained. “Science-based information therefore becomes critical when lawmakers propose bills that may later become laws.”

Therefore, Tablante thanks his Department Chair, Dr. Samal, Dean Wei, and the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs for understanding how this fellowship largely overlaps with his extension work. He is also grateful to connect with Congressman Bishop over poultry concerns, as Bishop represents a Georgia district with a large poultry industry and also serves as co-Chair of the Congressional Chicken Caucus.

“As a poultry veterinarian who has worked in government, industry, and academia, I am fully aware of the issues facing the poultry industry and how they impact the economy, public health, health of poultry workers, and poultry welfare,” Tablante said. “Because of my experience and expertise…I felt I could provide useful advice on poultry and other animal and public health issues.”

Though Tablante was thrilled to be approved for his sabbatical leave, his transition from an academic setting to a political one was a challenge, inspiring him to someday write a “Fellows Manual,” helping future fellows better adjust to life on Capitol Hill.

“I would like to get the Congressional Chicken Caucus to become more active in addressing critical poultry industry issues,” Tablante went on. “In particular, I would like to set up a series of briefings for Congressional staffers on current "hot" issues such as food safety and poultry worker safety. I also plan to contribute a user-friendly link to grant opportunities for constituents on Mr. Bishop's website.”

Tablante hopes to accomplish these tasks by the time his fellowship ends this August, at which time he will return to UMD to resume his academic duties and Extension activities.

“To be able to work as a staff member in Congressman Bishop's office and actually participate in day-to-day activities is an experience I will remember and value for the rest of my life,” Tablante said, also noting how the experience has been both wonderful and rewarding. “I have certainly learned a lot about the legislative process and now have a greater understanding of how Congress works and a much greater appreciation of the democratic process.”


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