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Hundreds of blue jackets descend on Boise for 'Day on the Hill'

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

BOISE – Hundreds of Idaho FFA students, wearing their iconic blue jackets, descended on Boise Jan. 28 for their annual “Cenarrusa Day on the Hill” luncheon.

It kicks off a two-day event that allows FFA members to meet face-to-face with lawmakers and other agricultural industry leaders and learn first-hand how public policy is developed. 

It includes a leadership conference hosted by national FFA officials.

“It’s an opportunity for our students who are engaged in pursuing leadership positions in agriculture to connect with the generation ahead of them, to learn and grow … and to continue to help Idaho agriculture,” said Clara-Leigh Evans, executive director of the Idaho FFA Foundation.

“I want to thank you because you are the future of agriculture,” Ken Dey, communications director for J.R. Simplot Co., told FFA members during the Day on the Hill luncheon, where a wave of blue jackets mingles with legislators and industry leaders.

He also reminded them that there are plenty of career opportunities in the ag industry, whether at Simplot or elsewhere.

“The opportunity in agriculture is immense,” he said. “There are plenty of FFA alumni working for our company.”

The event is named for former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who died in 2013 and whose 51 years in the Legislature and executive branches of Idaho government make him the longest serving public servant in state history. 

He started the first ag classes at Cambridge and Carey high schools and was known as a champion of Idaho agriculture.

Mark Bietia, an ag teacher and FFA advisor at American Falls High School, said the event is a good opportunity for FFA members to establish a relationship with their elected representatives and talk about agricultural and other issues.

“This is the biggest event where students and legislators are brought together and are able to converse about the issues of the day and how they affect us all,” he said. 

The event is an exciting time for the students but it’s also a special time for legislators, who say they are invigorated by the enthusiasm of the FFA members, Evans said. 

“I think these students inspire them,” she said. “A lot of times they will say, ‘That was a dose of enthusiasm and motivation.’ The legislators leave this event feeling like our state will be in good hands and that FFA is preparing students for leadership roles in the future.”

During the luncheon, several of Idaho’s elected officials and industry leaders spoke about the important role farming and ranching play in the state’s economy and thanked FFA members for their support of agriculture.

“Agriculture is such an important part of the economy of Idaho,” said Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. “The contribution that (farmers and rancher) continue to make to our state is very much appreciated.”

“Agriculture is alive and strong in Idaho,” said LaMar Isaak, an Idaho board member of the Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council, which represents agricultural co-ops in Idaho and sponsors the event. “You young people are doing a great job.”

On behalf of the NWACC, Isaak presented friend of the industry awards to Sen. Mark Harris, a Republican rancher from Soda Springs, and Rep. John Vander Woude, a Republican farmer from Nampa.

Honorary FFA degrees for their long-time support of Idaho FFA were presented to Rep. Mike Moyle, a Republican farmer and rancher from Star, and Sen. Carl Crabtree, a Republican rancher from Grangeville.