Preparing our agricultural future
by Senator Larry Craig
"FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education." That is the mission statement for the Future Farmers of America (FFA). As I headed to the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, this past week, I was reminded that this statement could not be more true.
Growing up on the family ranch near Midvale, FFA was, and continues to be, a defining influence on my life and the lives of countless Idahoans. I still enjoy reminiscing about my experiences as a boy growing in the FFA and encouraging boys and girls of all ages to consider participating in this outstanding organization.
For those not familiar with the organization, FFA seeks to educate the youth of America on issues important to agriculture and to prepare them for the complex and various challenges that face farmers and ranchers of today. Making a living off the land is an important and ever-changing enterprise, and we must continue to aggressively recruit and prepare capable young people for this industry if we expect it to remain an attractive and viable occupation.
There is a saying that farmers were the first environmentalists. As a former rancher, I know what this means, as does anyone who has worked the land for a living. While we continually search for ways to coax more out of the soil and maximize our water resources, we constantly balance those efforts with careful consideration of the environmental impacts we have. If we push the land too hard, we run the risk of ruining the very resource that provides so much to us.
The United States has a long and rich tradition of farming. While we have evolved from "a nation of yeoman farmers," agriculture continues to play an important role in our prosperity. Through constant re-evaluation and American ingenuity, the United States is the most efficient and prolific agriculture producer in the world. Though less than 2 percent of our population, American farmers feed not only 300 million U.S. citizens, but millions of people around the world. FFA has played, and continues to play a vital role in keeping our farmers on the cutting edge of the world agriculture industry.
So, I greatly enjoyed my time in Louisville. I saw familiar faces from the Idaho FFA, and some old friends from my days as a national officer. I got a chance to check out a number of the exhibits and talk with some bright and promising young members. I was encouraged by what I saw.
If you have never considered joining FFA, I strongly urge you to give it some thought. If you were once a member and would like to get involved once again, please do. It's a win-win situation for you and FFA. Visit www.ffa.org to learn more, or contact Rick Waitley, Executive Director of the Idaho FFA Foundation, at (208) 888-0988.