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Guest Opinions

Ag Advocacy Needs Fresh Faces

Written by Liz LeSatz
      It’s no secret that America’s agriculture population is getting older. But during my summer at the Roundup, I’ve been in the thick of things and have started to notice just how few of us “youngsters” are involved in agriculture advocacy in Wyoming.
    Being a UW student I’m used to looking out and seeing a sea of twenty-somethings at meetings, conferences, classes, etc. However, during my recent treks to ag gatherings, I’ve seen a much different demographic.
      It’s difficult for folks of any age to get off the operation and get involved, but many find time to do it. Organizations like Wyoming Stockgrowers, Wyoming Wool Growers, CattleWomen, Farm Bureau and many more have been successful in their efforts due to dedicated personnel and members. These folks do what it takes to ensure ag has a voice.
    Us “young-uns” absolutely need to follow the example of our ag elders and help make that ag voice louder. Many of us started young in 4-H and FFA and we need to encourage others to start there as well. We need to set examples by getting involved in college and after graduation. It doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment, just go to a meeting or serve on a committee. Help carry on a tradition of serving ag beyond production.
    Agriculturists don’t have the resources to hire public relations specialists so it is important we get the messages out ourselves. Agriculturists have a lot of obstacles to overcome. From radical environmentalists and animal rights activists to government regulations and enforcements based on everything but common sense and sound science, the task of promoting agriculture can look daunting. But by banding together, we can get the job done and by involving younger generations our messages can be sustainable. The veterans and the newcomers can learn a lot from each other. We can educate the consumer and the greater public about the good agriculture does, about the challenges we face and the solutions on the horizon.
    I was at the Hot Springs County Resource Tour on Thursday and a message I kept hearing was agriculture tends to be reactive rather than proactive. It may be hard to hear, but it is unfortunately true. We react when the government implements something rather than submitting public comments and writing to the legislature. We react when an animal rights group gets a ban on horse slaughter passed instead of launching our own campaign to educate the public about the consequences. Let’s get involved and start changing that attitude.
    Younger generations need to learn from farmers and ranchers who have been fighting the fight. Let’s learn what works and doesn’t work and let’s use our own insights to come up with new solutions. At the resource tour Guardians of the Range Executive Director Kathleen Jachowski said the time for agriculturists to speak up is at the meeting, not in the car after the meeting. We need to get the message right and get the message out and younger folks can have a huge role in doing that.
    The younger people who are already getting involved give me hope. In my travels around the state I’ve seen a few younger people at informational meetings, conferences and tours, but we need more. Keep up the good work and help me urge others our age to join in the fight. We can provide fresh ideas, technological insights, vitality and a much louder voice to agriculture advocacy and we need to start now.
Liz