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4-H Students Represent Future of Agriculture in D.C.

The National 4-H Conference brought 250 students to Washington, D.C. this week.

It was a great week for youth in agriculture as nearly 250 4-H members gathered in Washington, D.C., to answer important questions about important matters public agencies needed to understand. The high school students researched topics and created detailed presentations for the agencies involved. 

One group presented to the House Agriculture Committee’s biotechnology, horticulture, and research subcommittee on the future of agriculture in the U.S. and then had a chance to answer questions directly from house representatives. 

“As we work toward developing the next farm bill, it is essential we hear from a wide variety of stakeholders on where we can make meaningful improvements to agriculture policy,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), chair of the subcommittee. “Today’s discussion provided a great opportunity to hear from some of these young stakeholders on what they hope to see for the future of agriculture.”

Two of the 4-H members presenting did not have a background in agriculture, which was a topic of interest to the subcommittee. The two participants spoke of getting most of their information about agriculture online and the fact that it isn't always reliable. 

“They said when they were surrounded by actual producers of their food and agricultural products, they were able to really see the truth,” says Billie Lentz, one of the 4-H presenters and a 10th grader from North Dakota.

Other groups attacked topics like irrigation, backyard farming, climate change, and a range of nonagriculture topics like strengthening communities, fitness, and stopping young people from joining terrorist groups. Agencies that were presented to were diverse and included NASA, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the U.S. Department of State. 

“There truly isn’t anything like seeing the youth finally perform, perform so well, and then have their opinions valued,” says Evan Fritz, lead facilitator of the conference. “I’m always blown away by how interested and engaged the executives are.”

A breakfast was also held with many of the representatives and senators who were involved in 4-H as children. As a student, Lentz was impressed by the number of prominent politicians who had been in 4-H at one point.

“It was really interesting to see such important people crediting a lot of their success to 4-H,” says Lentz, who was also shocked to see 4-H alumna Jennifer Nettles of musical duo Sugarland at the breakfast and rally. 

As an organization of 6 million students, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the U.S. The group continues to help members learn about agriculture and its importance. The National 4-H Conference is held every spring in Washington, D.C., and always includes a diverse range of participants from across the country with a host of different backgrounds. 

While the 4-H members were still in town, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced a new piece of legislation. If passed, the tax code will exclude the first $5,000 earned by students 18 or younger on agricultural projects completed under the supervision of 4-H or FFA. 

With the intention of giving a new generation an incentive to participate in the agriculture industry, this piece of legislation would really benefit students like Lentz who would have the opportunity to receive some support if she decided to take on an agricultural project with her 4-H or FFA chapter.

“I want to possibly become a farmer myself or to have some kind of agricultural career,” says Lentz. “Agriculture is going to be the foundation of living, forever.”

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