Leaders from the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) attended the American Farm Bureau Federation State Program Leaders Conference April 30-May 4 in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together chairs and staff of the Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) and the Promotion & Education Committee.
MFB WLC Gretchen Schubert said one workshop she found very informative was working with the legislative staff and lobbyists. “One thing we asked was if our messages get to the senator or representative when we talk to staff. They responded sometimes yes, sometimes no, but keep trying,” Schubert said. “It’s important to make appointments to meet with them whether you’re in D.C. or when they are back in our home state.”
Congress was on recess when the leaders were in town, but the Montana women had the opportunity to meet with staff members of Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Ryan Zinke. “It was very good to meet with the people who work for our Congressmen. They were interested in what we had to say, and we made good contacts,” said Schubert, a Huntley rancher. “We learned from the workshop that it’s important when you meet with your elected officials to have a plan as to what to say. Make it personal and let them know how certain legislation will affect you and should always mention that agriculture is the number-one industry in Montana.”
Schubert added she enjoys networking at the conference and finding out what leaders do in other states to get Farm Bureau members more involved.
Lillian Ostendorf, a former MFB WLC Chair, now serves on the national WLC committee. Ostendorf was part of the group who visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We did a tour and heard about their programs. It was a good venue for asking questions, and it was good to be able to meet the staff there.”
The Powderville rancher noted that the Congressional workshop on issues was informative, as was the talk by the AFBF’s Johnna Miller. “She did a workshop on media training, and encouraged people to use their Facebook pages to give examples of their lives on farms and ranches.”
Mike Curtin, CEO of the DC Central Kitchen, addressed the group. The Kitchen provides 5,000 free meals every day that are distributed to nearby homeless shelter and transitional homes. Curtin talked about his experience with farmer, ranchers and food. MFBF WLC member Beth Blevins found his talk interesting. “He explained how he came to the realization that supporting local ag people and taking their produce seconds could be beneficial not only to the farmers, but to the community. In this way, the Kitchen can provide jobs for people coming back into the system, whether they were in an addiction program or incarcerated. Through the Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training these people have been trained for jobs in food service.”
“Another great session was on hosting a candidate forum,” said the Ronan veterinarian. “In that workshop, Farm Bureau’s Cody Lyon provided details on how to choose a format and how to control the questions so you don’t have someone in the audience dominating the forum.”
“The theme was Educate, Empower, Engage,” noted Blevins. “We were especially encouraged to engage by staying on task and topic so consumers, as well as corporate America, understands what we do and values us as ag producers”
Source: Montana Farm Bureau