Patrick and Nicole Hackley serve locally with the Richland County Farm Bureau and represent the Montana Farm Bureau Federation on the American Farm Bureau's national Young Farmer & Rancher Committee. Thanks for sharing your latest experience in DC with the national committee, Nicole and Patrick!

Serving our county Farm Bureau and State Farm Bureau is a privilege we get to be involved in indefinitely. However, being chosen to serve on the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee is a two-year commitment that we have to put every ounce of ourselves into during our tenure. One of the ways we do this is meeting with our committee several times per year. We had our second meeting in June in Washington D.C.

Here are 5 things we learned while we were in DC:

  1. Our individual voices and stories are valuable. At the end of the day, officials want to hear about how issues face is as individuals and our own farms.

  2. The USDA under secretary Alexis Taylor worked for Max Baucus for eight years and is very familiar with Montana and what a great state we are.

  3. Senator Daines was truly appreciative of knowing how Farm Bureau stood on issues we talked to him about. They need us as much as we need them. He tasked us with getting more feedback from fellow farmers and ranchers when issues affect us.

  4. There are farmers from across the U.S. that all have difficulties facing their farms, but at the end of the day we can all get together and have a good time.

  5. The people who make laws and policies at the national level are great listeners who ask great questions. They don't care if it's a phone call, email or personal visit. They WANT to hear how the decisions they're making or going to be making have or will affect the individual person.

One of the things we also talk about at our meetings is how to best share the wealth of knowledge that we learn, with our states and counties.

Here are three things Young Farmers & Ranchers from Montana can make an impact:

  1. Again it comes back to contacting your national and state legislators about issues that will affect you. Many times we think others will do it or "whatever happens, happens and we'll deal with it." But your voice DOES matter.

  2. We're all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., anyway. You don't have to stand on your soap box to advocate for agriculture. Post pictures of your farm or ranch, give out small tidbits of info on what you're doing or share an interesting article.

  3. Get involved in your local Farm Bureau! It all starts there! It doesn't have to be a huge commitment, but helping out with something you're passionate about is a good start. Enjoy cooking? Head up your summer picnic. Enjoy talking about policy? Create or join your county policy development committee. There's a place for everyone, you just might need to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone.

Lastly, it's important for us to share WHY we choose to spend hours at home and 4-5 weeks out of our year traveling to various places to advocate with Farm Bureau.

It's worth leaving the farm because we realize that we can make a difference. We've both been raised and taught to be leaders and we aren't going to wait for things to happen. We can make things happen by putting in the time and a little hard work.

Example: We met with Senator Daines Tuesday morning. He said he received a lot of negative comments about the GMO compromise. Farm Bureau supported it, we told him why. Later that day, he voted FOR the agreement, which then allowed it to be brought to the Senate for discussion at a later date. That one meeting with him made a difference. He appreciated our stance, the organization we represent, and our personal story as a consumer and how we felt about the bill from that standpoint. We followed up with his staff with information we'd promised him as well.