Ed Note: Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack had the opportunity to speak with some of our nation’s brightest young leaders at the National FFA Organization’s State Presidents’ Conference. He discussed USDA’s efforts to revitalize the rural economy and recognized the officers for their commitment to leadership, personal growth and career success. Below is a blog post submitted to USDA by Clay Sapp, 2012-13 National FFA President. You can find the original post here.
This week is the National FFA Organization’s 2013 State Presidents’ Conference (SPC) in Washington, D.C. At SPC, state FFA officers are exposed to new ideas, meet new people and expand their perspectives as they sharpen their advocacy skills for tomorrow. Two officers from each state, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are represented at this year’s conference, which carries the theme, “Suit up.”
At SPC, state officers undergo intense leadership training and develop a solid understanding of partner relationships. Their training is used to gather grassroots student input from across the nation on the future of FFA and agriculture education.
On Wednesday, our state officers were able to learn about key issues facing rural America, agriculture and education during a White House Rural Council meeting. We heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, executive director of Let’s Move and senior policy advisor on nutrition Sam Kass and senior policy advisor for rural affairs Doug McKalip.
As the National FFA President, it was truly inspiring to see the interaction between our FFA members and our nation’s leaders as they had an open conversation about the future of rural America. State officers asked a wide array of questions that ranged from the Farm Bill to the future of career and technical education.
One key point made by all speakers yesterday was that our generation will be tasked with tackling many of the challenges facing rural America, agriculture and education. It will be people like us, suited up in blue FFA jackets today, leaders of tomorrow, that will take these challenges head on.
As state and national officers, it is incredibly important that we bring this message of opportunity back to the members we serve in our homes states. After working with this stellar group of state officers for the past few days, I know our future rests in diligent, passionate and committed hands.
As FFA members, we wear a wide array of “suits”— agriculture educator, speaker, mentor. It is up to us to decide what to do after we take off these blue corduroy jackets and begin our careers. Regardless of what future suits we wear, it is our challenge – our commitment – to suit up for agriculture.
Todd Batta is a Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack.