Robert Soileau, Merrill, Thomas A. | 6/30/2008 7:09:45 PM
News Release Distributed 06/30/08
Participants in the LSU AgCenter’s Agricultural Leadership Development Program visited Washington, D.C., in mid-June as part of the two-year study program.
Briefings on agricultural issues and visits with Louisiana’s legislative delegation were some of the highlights of the June 10-14 study tour to Washington, D.C., for this 11th class to participate in the program coordinated by the LSU AgCenter.
Established in 1988, the LSU AgCenter’s Ag Leadership Program provides educational opportunities for potential leaders involved with agriculture and agribusiness, according to Dr. Bobby Soileau, who serves as program director for the LSU AgCenter. Since its inception, more than 300 people have graduated from the program.
“It is important for our class members to understand the public policy issues at the national level that can have an impact on agriculture,” Soileau said. “This trip offers them an opportunity to interact with people directly involved in the national policy process.”
Soileau and the leadership program participants said the trip to the nation’s Capitol was rewarding for the Louisiana farmers, ranchers and other agricultural specialists – since they were able to present perspectives about the challenges of the agricultural industries to those who are directly involved in policymaking.
“Senators Vitter and Landrieu and Congressman Melancon were very open to discussing some of the problems we face and concerns we have on the farm,” said Wilson Judice, a participant in the leadership program who manages Frank Martin Farms near Centerville in St. Mary Parish. “Sessions with representatives from our various commodity groups gave us invaluable insight into having our voices heard by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.”
Among the activities in Washington, leadership program class members participated in briefings with the American Farm Bureau, which included such topics as the new federal farm bill and immigration reform. Other topics also included current policy issues affecting agriculture, biofuels, conservation, environmental issues and much more.
The leadership development program curriculum includes 10 seminars during its two-year span – seven on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and three study tours. In addition to the Washington seminars, group members participate in another U.S. seminar, and the current group will travel along the central coast of California to learn about environmental and land-use policies that have an effect on agriculture. Their final seminar will be an international study tour on which they will learn about another country’s agricultural, economic and social systems.
Participants pay a portion of the costs for their study, and travel for the current group is underwritten by endowments in the LSU Foundation, including the Chalkley Family Endowment, the H. Rouse Caffey Endowment and the Ag Leaders of Louisiana Endowment.