Laura Peterson: Syngenta Public Policy Advocate for Ag

Splitting life between Washington, D.C., and a Montana ranch helps this Syngenta leader remain connected to the industry she supports.
Laura Peterson with Syngenta stands in front of the Capitol.
Laura Peterson with Syngenta stands in front of the Capitol.
Living in one city and working in another usually involves a short drive to get from one to the other. But for Laura Peterson, head of federal government relations for Syngenta, her commute requires flying across the country between Washington, D.C., and rural Montana.

“My husband and I run a cattle operation in Montana,” she says. “We’re trying to give our two young daughters the opportunity to engage in rural America, just like we did.”

Peterson’s childhood was spent on a corn, wheat and soybean farm in Kansas, where her family still farms to this day. She attended law school at George Washington University to pursue a career in public policy, her interest piquing when she realized there was a connection between her field of study and the fields she grew up in.

“I went to the heart of the nation’s capital where I really started to understand the depths of law and regulation that underpin our American democracy,” she says. “It ties back to the community engagement that rural areas provide, especially through programs such as Girls State and 4-H.”

An Intersection of Interests

As the head of federal government relations for Syngenta, Peterson and her team work to enable policies and regulatory issues that allow Syngenta to operate. Their goal is to work both domestically and internationally to help find solutions for the world’s agricultural challenges.

Peterson’s background in ag and her education in public policy make her position at Syngenta a natural fit.

“Living in both worlds, I can work in the policy and regulatory realms of Washington, D.C., and tie that back to my roots in farming and ranching to reach common-sense results,” she says. “It’s a fortunate opportunity to have an impact on agriculture and help shape policy trends for future generations, including my daughters.”

"Living in both worlds, I can work in the policy and regulatory realms of Washington, D.C., and tie that back to my roots in farming and ranching to reach common-sense results."

Laura Peterson
Beyond the connection to her interests, Peterson is grateful that she can help Syngenta in its mission to feed the world.

“I am so excited to work for a company that values the R&D investment that’s necessary to address food insecurity around the globe,” she says. “We know we have challenges with climate and natural resource constraints—be it biodiversity, water, or crop and input efficiency. Appropriate conservation and sustainable strategies are part of our team’s approach to the Syngenta Good Growth Plan.”

Leading by Example

Peterson is just one of many women pursuing a career in agriculture outside the traditional roles of working on the farm. She is passionate about the diverse opportunities available in the industry, and the potential for women to succeed in them.

“The opportunities in agriculture are vast,” she says. “There are many more ways to work in agriculture than I originally realized."

In particular, she believes there is a need to engage and empower women to take on more leadership roles across the industry – from the barn to the board room.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been mentored by many intelligent, bright and talented women who have gone before me,” Peterson says. “I want to see more women follow in those footsteps and rise into different leadership positions.”

Thinking Like a Farmer

Peterson’s career hasn’t been without its share of challenges. Like most people, balancing work and family life can be a struggle. However, the work ethic instilled by her family farm is at the root of her passion for agriculture policy.

“Growing up on a farm taught me about more than just driving trucks or pulling weeds out of a field,” Peterson says. “It taught me about hard work and about the resilience of a can-do spirit and attitude. It means being resourceful, and it means being a problem-solver.”

Public policy advocate for @SyngentaUS connects her #ag roots with her career in D.C. #RootedinAg

click to tweet

In the high-paced bustle of our nation’s capital, she says the cattle herd in Montana keeps her grounded and helps her think like a farmer.

“Understanding how producers think is really important to crafting public policy,” she says. “You have to imagine what farmers and ranchers are thinking about and how their businesses are impacted.”