Monday, January 12, 2015

Testifying to the Senate Ag Committee Today

My morning: speaking to the Senate Ag Committee
WOW. So, Friday started with some crazy, awesome news. One of my coworkers asked if I could testify to the Senate Ag Committee about Indiana's livestock industry, specifically one of the programs I manage and the impact it has on producers. Oh...my...gosh!!! I can't tell you how many times I pinched myself. Is this really my life?! Ironically, we practiced how to testify and influence policy during a panel and individually during YDLI last year, but I never expected to actually get the opportunity to do this.

Fast forward to this morning. I'm not one to wear a business suit on a regular basis. I much prefer a sweatshirt, jeans, boots and a Carhartt jacket, but there are times when farm clothes are just not appropriate. This was definitely one of them. And I didn't mind one bit.

I haven't done much with policy in the past, but public speaking is definitely my thing. I was a little nervous, but it went really well. It was interesting listening to what others who were also testifying were saying and their perspectives. A lot of the things we learned during YDLI's policy session were helpful.

One of the most important was to be short and concise. A few folks near the end talked in circles and dragged it on much longer than it needed to. I tend to talk fast, so I make a conscious effort to slow down when I'm giving a talk, that certainly helps too.

The alleged difference between small farms and large farms was discussed a few times. I hear the term "factory farm" way too often and it's incorrect, especially the way it implies that only "mom and pop" farms take care of the animals and care about the environment. All farms regardless of size care about these things. Most of the larger farms are also family owned. A lot of families expand their operations when the next generation wants to come home to the farm so there is more revenue to support another family. It's no different than any other business in that regard. Caring is a value common among farmers, regardless of the type or size of their farm.

Farms also create value within the community. Some non-farm neighbors worry about the odor that comes with living near a livestock farm. Farmers take precautions to keep odor to a minimum. Using trees or in some cases, biofilters, are a few of the many ways to do this. Farmers live on the farm too, and they also don't want to live in an environment that smells like manure. Taking care of the place that they hope will be in their family for generations to come is important to all the farmers I know and those I work with.

The ironic part of all of this is that when I was in middle school I wanted to be a senator. While my life plans have since changed and led me into ag communications, it's amazing to have this type of opportunity. I never thought something like this would happen. And especially not before I'm 30.

All in all, what an awesome day! That's one way to start off my late 20s. If this is a sign of everything that's to come this year, I'm really excited!

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