FFA leaders engage with state leaders at ag policy experience

SAINT PAUL — Forty high school students from Minnesota FFA Chapters attended the Ag Policy Experience (APEX) Conference in Saint Paul, MN on January 27-29. These elite chapter leaders met elected officials, hosted a legislative reception and developed their own policy agendas. Members from the Sleepy Eye FFA chapter included Isaac Huiras and Mike Ludewig.

The Ag Policy Experience conference targets high school FFA members with an interest in government, policy and agricultural solutions. Students learned about advocacy, key messages, the legislative process and telling their own story. They hosted State Representatives and State Senators on the agriculture and education committees and their own elected officials. Leaders from the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Education and Natural Resources spent time with the group. They toured the House Chamber, the Supreme Court and the Governor’s office and had the opportunity to sit in on a House Agriculture Committee Hearing where two students had the opportunity to testify about the value of agricultural education and the FFA.

A cornerstone of the conference was taking their experiences with the legislative process and applying it to their own passions. Each student identified a locally relevant issue and submitted a proposal for a legislative response prior to attending the conference. Student leaders then caucused and prioritized their legislative agenda through a legislative committee process. They discussed taxes, creation of an agricultural “green new deal,” response to low agricultural commodity prices and investment into education and rural mental health. Their legislative work culminated in committee work hosted at the State Office Building with support from professional legislators, lobbyists and state agricultural leaders.

Isaac Huiras, Sleepy Eye FFA Chapter Officer and participant states, “This experience is one I will truly never forget. Going into this, I thought I would be able to view political standpoints on agriculture in Minnesota. I was right, but APEX is so much more! Its opportunities are endless and they are so eye opening. I met with one of our Legislative staff, Gary Dahms, and I spoke with him. Dahms is so inspirational and his ability to protect and advocate for agricultural aspects of Minnesota are fascinating. All of the things I had learned at APEX I will bring back to my FFA chapter!”

The FFA is a youth leadership organization that makes a difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. In Minnesota, nearly 11,000 students participate in FFA programs in 185 school-based chapters.

APEX was made possible with financial contributions from AgCentric, Compeer Financial Services, the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Turkey Council and the Center for Rural Policy and Development as a special project of the Minnesota FFA Foundation.

You can learn more about the experiences of FFA members and supporters by visiting www.mnffa.org and www.ffa.org.