NEW ORLEANS-- Cali Rae Rooney, winner of the Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet, had the opportunity to compete at the national level during American Farm Bureau’s 100th Annual Convention. She participated in the first two rounds of the event, and her combined score allowed her to compete in the Sweet Sixteen round. The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.

To become more knowledgeable about the selected topics—which ranged from technology in agriculture to ag education and advocacy, Rooney studied Farm Bureau policy, conducted web searches on the topics and read magazine articles.

“I wanted to not only find out the ‘why’ of each topic, but the solutions that were available,” said the young rancher. “In addition, I did some personal interviews and learned about how people had solutions to those questions. I believe my strength in this competition was having action-plan items and solutions.”

Rooney, who recently moved back to her family ranch, said being a part of the Young Farmer and Rancher competitions was very valuable. “I learned what other states are doing to be proactive about those issues that affect agriculture. The process has always given me a sense of purpose like I gained with my FFA involvement. It has made me want to become more active in Montana Farm Bureau.”

She strongly encourages other people ages 18-35 to participate in the competition. “It’s an amazing practice that teaches you how to be successful in discussing real policy. If you are thinking about trying the Discussion Meet, you will not regret it.

“I am so honored and proud to have been in this competition with 36 of the brightest and best Farm Bureau has to offer. I want to thank Montana Farm Bureau for sponsoring my trip to compete at this level, and to Polaris who donated a Ranger for the Montana Farm Bureau YF&R Discussion Meet. That certainly gave me incentive to compete in our state, and allowed me to have this amazing experience at the national convention in New Orleans.”