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From Union to D.C.: A career in agriculture and natural resource policy


Sarah Bittleman '88
Sarah Bittleman '88

Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Spring 2014

Sarah Bittleman ’88 grew up on a tree farm in rural Cambridge, N.Y., so she knows agriculture. She also spent her last term at Union as an intern with Congressman Lee Hamilton (Ill.) in Washington, D.C., and went on to hold many leadership positions in state and federal service, so she knows government.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that Bittleman became the chief agriculture counselor to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Feb. 2013 – Feb. 2014), before recently returning to Capitol Hill with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

“I explained agriculture to EPA and EPA to agriculture. I love working with farmers who produce our nation’s food, fiber and fuel, and I love working with federal employees who implement laws to provide cleaner air, water and land,” she said. “EPA has a regulatory role but also a supporting role, my job was to balance those and amplify the good works that agriculture and EPA can do together.”

“I tried to open lines of communication between these passionate entities so they can see that they have more in common than they might have thought,” added Bittleman, a political science major whose father, Arnold Bittleman, taught art at Union from 1970-1984.

At the beginning of March, Bittleman left EPA to return to Capitol Hill to be Senator Ron Wyden’s legislative director in his personal office and his chief counsel for agriculture, energy and natural resources on his Finance Committee. 

“As I left EPA I was assured by many in agriculture that the lines of communication between them and EPA had been improved,” Bittleman said. “Now, I return to where Union College gave me my start in D.C., Capitol Hill, to continue working on agriculture, energy and natural resources policy, along with the many other issues important to the people of Oregon.”