Washington

This week I've been in Washington - by which I mean the capital of the United States, not our own Washington in West Sussex! 

Parliament is in recess this week, so this was the last opportunity before the election to hold some useful meetings on agricultural and environmental issues, where international policy is important to us.

I flew - not at the taxpayers' expense - to Baltimore Airport, where a marvellous sign said: "Welcome Home US Armed Forces ... Thank You for Serving and Protecting Our Country."

On Tuesday I was given a briefing on environmental policy at the World Resources Institute and I spoke at a working lunch at the Margaret Thatcher Centre of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank.

I then held a seminar on tuberculosis with charities and campaign groups, including the Aeras Foundation who are trying to develop a vaccine to combat the disease.

The good news is that there's a chance of an effective vaccine within the next decade.  The bad news is that it won't be available until 2016 at the earliest, by which time 10 million more people will have died.

In the evening I had supper with the great commentator, Andrew Sullivan, and we recorded an interview for the Today programme back at home.

On Wednesday I met the American Farmland Trust who gave me a great car bumper sticker which says: "No Farms - No Food".

I then spoke at another think tank, the Cato Institute, on equality.  The most senior officer in the US military has now said that gay people should be allowed to serve openly in their armed forces, something we have allowed, with no problem, for a decade.

Today I'm meeting the National Farmers Union (the American version) and officials at the US State Department to discuss trade issues, before flying home overnight.

When I land on Friday morning I'll be heading straight off to the New Forest to speak at a lunch, and then - to my relief! - I'll be back in West Sussex, speaking to the Grassland Society in the evening.

Michelle Taylor