If your bread and butter comes from farm income, you need to be involved with the Iowa agriculture associations that support your operation. Just a few that come to mind are the soybean, pork, grain, and corn producers associations. But even if your business is raising garlic, miniature cattle, or the occasional pig, you are sure to find groups dedicated to each of these specialties.
So why not take advantage of the knowledge and experience of these groups? There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Chances are, someone else has been in your shoes along the tricky path of feeding the world and has answers to the questions that are on your mind this very minute.
It is the mission and responsibility of ag associations to provide professional development to their membership. This includes educational materials, certifications, workshops, and the opportunity to connect young or new producers with those experienced in the field. I also suggest you shop around to find a group to represent your overall ag policy interests, as well. Be sure to ask your friends and neighbors which associations they belong to and support. You are sure to hear some encouraging stories of the difference these groups have made.
One of my own favorite personal experiences with associations came as a result of several of them working together. Each year, our Department of Agriculture hosts a program called “Young Couples in Ag.” Couples are nominated to attend two days of producer workshops through sponsoring producer associations. Traditionally, both my husband and I have been at the front of the room in scenarios like this, introducing speakers and putting together the materials for our own producer groups. But one particular year we had the honor of being nominated and selected as attendees. At the end of the weekend we walked out of the workshop series with better understanding of how to voice our own personal views for the benefit of agriculture, a big pile of reading material on estate planning and other complex topics, and a passel of new friends. But it only happened because we were willing to step out of our comfort zones, admit we needed a little help, and participate with a larger group.
And participation is key Associations have the responsibility to represent you as a producer – they are your voice when you are busy on the tractor and Washington lawmakers are crafting the next Farm Bill, needing farmer input. They are your voice on biosecurity practices when an animal disease surfaces capable of wiping out the pig crop on your farm. But decision-making and policy is driven by members like you. Without your voice, an organization lacks the clout to step forward and make demands or get tough questions answered for their membership.
So I encourage you to add your voice to the mix. You don’t need to be speaking for the biggest acreage, oldest farm, or most livestock. Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised by how many people listen and work to help.
The bottom line is this: You are a professional, working a career that provides products and services the world cannot do without. Treat yourself that way. Support the associations that support you.
Click here for a list of Iowa Agriculture Associations as compiled by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
About the Author
Anne has worked in agriculture since she was old enough to sweep the floor of the family machine shed. She writes about rural & outdoor life from Montana, where she and her husband chase two children. Her experience ranges from picking apricots in 100 degree weather to discussing ag trade with the Ambassador of New Zealand.