Des Moines, IA, (AgPR),
October 2, 2015 --
Advocacy. We talk about it all the time in agriculture. It is at the core of what we do as agriculturalists; telling our stories and sharing our values with people that are 2 or 3 generations removed from the farm. From September 15th through September 18th, the 2014-2015 Iowa FFA Officer team had the chance to take agricultural advocacy to the big stage; Washington D.C.
The Iowa FFA Officer team received this experience through a program ran by the National FFA Organization called the State Officer Challenge. This program, which was made available to all States from around the country, focused on areas of government outreach, social media advocacy, community involvement, and chapter development. Officer teams had to document what they were doing throughout the year to promote not only FFA, but the agricultural industry as well. This past year, the Iowa FFA Association and the Kansas FFA Association were co-champions.
The reward for winning was a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with agricultural industry groups and representatives to discuss current agricultural issues and develop ways that FFA and agricultural education can help find solutions to these issues. The Iowa FFA Officer team found out first hand that they have an excellent team of agriculturalists going to bat for them in the Nation’s Capital. Ray Schmidt, past State Reporter, and Lee Thomsen, past State Secretary, both commented on the commitment that agriculturalist show and how that inspires them to inspire others. “Spending a few days in D.C. helped me realize the number of people advocating for the agricultural industry,” says Schmidt. “There are hundreds of people working around the clock to further the needs of agriculturalists. You don’t have to be a politician or lobbyist in Washington to make a difference. The change start at a local level. Everyone can make a difference. Do not underestimate the value of meeting with state representatives and making them aware of what matters to you.”
Thomsen agreed with Schmidt and added, “It’s easy to take for granted the work that the folks in DC are doing to support farmers at the local level – in Iowa and around the country. It was an incredible eye-opening experience to meet the people who advocate for us agriculturists on the Hill every day.”
Mike Poggemiller, past Southeast State Vice President, summed up both of their comments very easily. “Your voice matters, use it,” says a reflective Poggemiller.
Throughout the week, the officers were able to look at issues that affected not only Iowa, but global agriculture as well.
“Often times we get so caught up in our own lives and problems and forget about what is going on in the rest of the world,” says Mackenzie Lewis, past North Central State Vice President. “This week really helped open my eyes to other problems that are happening outside of Iowa. It makes me want to work to help find innovative solutions.”
Logan Bauer, past Southwest State Vice President, reflected on the importance of having individuals willing to speak on farmers’ behalf in Washington D.C. “I learned that sometimes a farmer that wears a suit and tie makes the difference that will impact our industry for our next generation of leaders,” says Bauer.
Abrah Meyer, past Iowa FFA Association State President and Iowa’s National FFA Officer Candidate this year, spoke about the importance of utilizing the specific knowledge area’s that individuals have. “We all have specific areas of knowledge and skill that we are extremely passionate about,” says Meyer. “The cool thing about agriculture is that the people involved I the industry form such a strong network. Professionals aren’t afraid to utilize the human resources around them to find answers to their questions.”
From small town Iowa to our Nation’s Capital, the 2014-2015 Iowa FFA Officer team has taken advocating for agriculture to the next level. “When I look at my teammates from last year, I don’t worry about the future,” says Michael Tupper, Iowa FFA Association State President. “Their dedication to this industry runs deep within them. It makes me excited to know that I will be working alongside these folks for the rest of my life as both friends and colleagues. We have enormous challenges ahead, but each and every one of us is up to the task.”