With a Polaris Ranger 570 on the line…you can guarantee the winner of the 2016 YF&R Discussion Meet will have done their homework!  While “studying” may not bring back the fondest memories, digging deeper into each of these ag-related topics will definitely be more fun than cramming for a calculus exam.

Not only could you win a Polaris Ranger, but you are guaranteed to be a more informed ag industry advocate. That can only benefit you, your farm or ranch and our entire agriculture community.

 First, here are the questions that will be discussed during this year’s Discussion Meet.

  1. American agriculture depends on a foreign-born labor force. How would you draft a national immigration policy?

  2. How can we ensure that farmers and ranchers, not government agencies, are driving the management of natural resources?

  3. How can we as farmers and ranchers maintain “ownership” of our intellectual and proprietary information? (Big data, unmanned aerial vehicles, unauthorized videos)

  4. The nation’s tax policy has become increasingly complicated and cumbersome. What should a balanced and beneficial tax policy look like for agriculture?

  5. Today’s food companies employ many tactics to gain a marketing edge. What is the purpose of food labels? How can Farm Bureau work to ensure that consumers understand the labels and have confidence in the safety and quality of their food?

Study each of these topics, as the question for the first round of competition will not be announced until the day of the Discussion Meet.  So…where do you start?

Here are a few “best practices” that will give you a broad and thorough understanding of each of the topics.

  1. Training calls. All competitors are encouraged to listen in on the training calls hosted by the AFBF YF&R Committee. Links to these conference calls will be available on the website once they occur. There will be a total of six calls and each will last one hour. The first call will cover the Discussion Meet format and tips for success and the other five calls will focus on each question. Oftentimes, the calls include industry experts, who share their expertise and provide additional resources.

  1. Utilize government research. Search government agency websites and databases for strong statistics and data to use in your discussions. This information can be reliable and is well-researched.

  1. Learn from the best. Reach out to former Discussion Meet and Collegiate Discussion Meet participants. Even though the discussion questions change each year, former competitors can provide valuable insight and tips on the nature of the contest. Also, reach out to YF&R staff and committee members that have familiarity on the competition to get clarification.

  1. Pros and Cons. Review each question and create discussion points from both sides of the issue. This will not only give you greater understanding of how an issue developed, but it will prepare you to discuss potential obstacles when working to find a solution.

  1. Diversify written sources. Besides the internet, gather resources and information from the library, newspapers, magazines, Farm Bureau policies and other agriculture publications.

  1. Real talk. Engage in conversations with your local county Farm Bureau members, state and national representatives, lobbyists and agriculture industry employees to gather information and examples. Seek conversations with those who are not familiar with the issue to gain their perspective. Explaining the topic helps provide practice articulating what you know. As you speak, address all angles to gather additional points and as many ideas as possible.

  1. Farm Bureau history. Take time to review county, state and American Farm Bureau history on the topic. What are our standing policies with the questions?

  1. Expert opinion. If you don’t have a personal relationship with the content of the question, find a credible source that does and get their opinion. Be prepared to cite and properly establish your source as an expert in their field.

This contest is simply a discussion about ag issues that are impacting our industry right now. You have these discussions all the time with your family, friends and industry peers.  Don’t be intimidated…you’ve got this!

Learn more from last year’s winner Jennie Anderson here. And of course, the best way to practice would be to host a local Discussion Meet in your home county!