My name is Rhonda Hergenrider. I farm and ranch with my family in the Clark's Fork Valley in South Central Montana. Our operation is pretty diversified. We raise sugar beets for Western Sugar, malt barley for Briess Malt, a variety of feeds, cattle and hogs. We market our pork directly through restaurants and a food coop. I am fortunate to be on the farm full time. I have a B.S. degree in Agriculture Communications. I worked in advertising and insurance before coming home three years ago. I also served one year as the biotech spokeswoman for our sugar company. I currently serve as our County President and was on the board before that. I participate in a variety of tasks with this organization including an elementary school reading program and giving testimony on legislation in Helena. 

About the Trip
The trip to Washington D.C. was part of MFBF's first ever Advocacy & Action Incentive Program Fly-In. I submitted an application to qualify for the trip. The application asked questions about our previous advocacy efforts. I believe there are going to be more fly ins in the future, so I would encourage all Farm Bureau members to step up their advocacy efforts and take advantage of this opportunity.  We met with our elected officials and Foreign Ag Service to discuss issues that are important to Montana Agriculture.
During our time in D.C. the two main topics we discussed with our delegation were trade and the new farm bill.  Maintaining positive trade relationships is extremely important for Montana farmers and ranchers because of the direct correlation they have with the prices of our commodities. Ag producers are hurt when unfair trade practices are conducted. Trade is a hot issue at the moment as President Trump is very focused on it. The message we wanted to communicate is that we don't want Montana's farmers and ranchers to suffer negative consequences as the administration works to improve trade relations.
The farm bill is important for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons, in my mind, is the safety net provided by crop insurance. With the extremely high input costs farmers are faced with, a loss due to factors out of our control such as weather can be very detrimental and crop insurance allows us to weather those storms.
How can you be an advocate too?
To educate elected officials don't hesitate to call their office or drop them an email on any issue you feel is important. They want to hear from you! You are not a bother!  For members of the public, just strike up a conversation. I like to shy away from the idea of beating facts into people's heads. Focus more on the common ground you share with that person and show them that a strong ag economy and community is good for everyone.
This trip was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity! I think my biggest take away was that our elected officials want to hear from us. I believe they want to make positive decisions for Montanans. But if it's an issue they aren't familiar with, the best way for them to know what to do is to be made aware of how those decisions affect people back home. They don't necessarily know that if Montanans don't keep them informed.