Day 19: Under Cover on the Meeting Circuit

Fall field work isn’t yet complete but the “post-harvest meeting season” is already underway.  On Nov. 15, I had the pleasure of attending a policy meeting of the Iowa Agri-Women.

AgriWomen agenda2Now I go to a lot of meetings every year.  Usually I can slip into the back of the room and blend right in with the crowd, but that was not the case last Friday!  This meeting was limited to 35 women… and me. The size of this meeting was limited for the sake of discussion.  There was a great agenda with very good speakers.  Plus, the list of attendees was impressive.

The group is led by Chairwoman Annette Sweeney to whom I’m especially grateful for the invitation.  Also in attendance were Iowa Senator Sandra Greiner, noted farm writer Darcy Maulsby and Franklin County Farmer April Hemmes, who farms her family’s Century Farm while her husband works in town.

I expected this meeting to be similar to those I’m accustomed to attending, but I was wrong.  Mainly, the questions were asked differently and discussed more thoroughly.  As Annette opened the meeting, she announced no members of the media were present and nothing was being recorded.  She encouraged attendees to be open and ask any question as there are no dumb questions.

These women talked openly, believe me!  There were three different times when I found myself wishing I had brought along duct tape to keep me quiet.  But I reminded myself that I came here to learn, and to learn, one must first listen.

“To listen and learn” is exactly why I decided to attend this women’s conference.  The theme of the IAW meeting was soil conservation, and those of you whom read “Musings of a Pig Farmer” regularly know that soil conversation is one of my hot-button issues.  You also know how strongly I feel about the need for farmers to first listen to others’ concerns, then engage in conversations and help promote a better understanding of U.S. food production.

One of the presenters last Friday pushed the idea of mandatory ties in the Farm Bill, requiring what farmers should do.  One of meeting attendees was convinced “bad farmers” should be sitting in jail!  This presentation and the discussion that followed reminded me of the Letter to the Editor in The Des Moines Register about a related issue.

Some folks believe the Farm Bill is a vehicle to strengthen conservation efforts, but I question why we need to use a hammer if the carrot works.  After all, farmers recycled before “Green Efforts” began.

In future blog posts, I will share my thoughts on many of topics debated during last Friday’s policy about the Farm Bill, conservation and mandatory regulations.  For now, I just want to give props to Iowa Agri-Women for organizing, coming together last week and discussing topics of such great importance.

More women are owning and managing farms today than ever before, and that’s all the more reason for agri-women to make their voices heard.  “The percentage of farms now influenced by women is significant,” says Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M economist and director of The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP). More women than ever are key decision makers and often the point person for purchasing decisions.  Women’s roles in agriculture have evolved, and women are changing the landscape of agriculture.