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Farmers become advocates
Buckeye Farm News
When U.S. soldiers went into Al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan, they discovered information on bird flu, downy mildew and foot and mouth disease.
“They’re aware of what they could do to this sector,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture official told a group of farm advocates from Ohio.
Insight into homeland security issues was just part of a broad spectrum of information participants in OFBF's AgriPOWER Institute were seeking when they traveled to Washington, D.C. last month. The trip included numerous candid meetings with political insiders to help farmers understand how business is conducted in the nation’s capital.
House legislative aides offered guidance on effectively getting concerns to members of Congress. The group was encouraged to make contact with legislative staff members who brief politicians on the specifics of farm issues. The repeated message was that lawmakers pay close attention to the letters, e-mails and phone calls coming in from their constituents.
One Congressional aide acknowledged that most farmers would simply prefer to do their job without government interference.
“To be left alone, you have to fight to be left alone,” he said.
The breadth of the trip, which ranged from a discussion on domestic farm policy with the deputy secretary of the USDA to a meeting on trade agreements at the Colombian ambassador’s residence, continued the intensive training offered by the AgriPOWER Institute. After a successful inaugural year, the program is looking for the next round of participants.
Preble County farmer Lane Osswald said the program has been the best training he has experienced from all levels of Farm Bureau.
“I have had some amazing leadership training, but these sessions are focused on building advocates for agriculture,” he said.
The year-long program is seeking the next class to participate in seven multi-day institutes. Topics cover public policy issues facing local communities, Ohio, the nation and the world. Specific sessions will help class members become effective leaders and advocates.
The program’s tuition is $4,000, which includes lodging, meals, travel and course materials. OFBF currently plans to offer several full scholarships and other organizations are invited to sponsor a participant.
Coshocton County farmer Alan Brinker said the institute reopened his eyes to the importance of speaking up for agriculture.
“After spending many years devoted to the growth and success of this industry, it certainly is wise to devote equal time to the promotion of it,” he said.