Washington—The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee’s A.C.E. (Advocate. Cultivate. Empower) Summit June 3-5 in Washington, D.C. taught women skills to share their stories about agriculture with lawmakers. The keynote speaker, Xochtil Torres Small, deputy secretary, U.S Department of Agriculture, shared her leadership journey and the role of women in community and government. Workshops included advocacy through confident storytelling, issues in the forefront of politics and economics, training for meeting with elected leaders, and more.

Five members of Montana Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee were impressed with the three-day event. They networked with women from across the country and met with Montana’s Congressional delegation.

This was a first-time event for Leslie Cavill, a rancher from Ryegate, who enjoyed hearing about the Farm Bill process and why it is important to tell your personal story to lawmakers. 

“If there is a piece of legislation that affects your farm or ranch, such as the Farm Bill, it’s essential to share a personal story with lawmakers so they can see how it will affect you,” said Cavill. 

Katie Rein, a veterinarian from Harlowton, decided to attend the A.C.E. Summit after being invited by a county Farm Bureau WLC member. “It was impressive how Farm Bureau represents farmers and ranchers on the national level. We were able to meet personally with Senator Steve Daines and Senator Jon Tester, as well as with the staff in Representative Matt Rosendale’s office. The majority of our time spent in our Congressional meetings centered around the Farm Bill, the fact that it was passed by the House Agriculture Committee and how much work needs to be done for a timely passage.”

Carla Lawrence, chair of the Montana WLC, said the lunchtime panel discussion with women in Congress proved eye-opening. 

“We learned that of the 12,000 people who have run for office since the U.S. became a nation, only 400 were women. We were encouraged to step up to the plate,” said Lawrence. “Our visits with Senator Daines and Senator Tester were fruitful as both senators were interested in hearing our story on the Farm Bill and other issues like labor and water. I’ve attended this women’s leadership conference several times and it is always like coming back to the family.”

Alena Standley, staff coordinator for the Montana WLC who led the trip, explained “There is a significant benefit as a Farm Bureau member and a U.S. citizen to be in our nation’s capital. We were on top of the election and Farm Bill discussions. The American Farm Bureau staff does an excellent job of coaching and providing guidance for our meetings on Capitol Hill, explaining that women from farms and ranches have a unique story they can share.”

Standley added, “It’s always exciting to see D.C. through the eyes of our first-time attendees. This conference expands your world to see how the Farm Bureau grassroots work from the county level all the way to the national level. Thanks to the connections Montana Farm Bureau has made, we enjoyed a private tour of the Capitol. There are also those somber moments when you are in D.C. visiting the memorials and revisiting history. I think the whole experience lights a real pride in our country.”