Sea of blue jackets descends on Idaho Capitol
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE – A sea of FFA members wearing their iconic blue jackets mingled with lawmakers, statewide elected officials and farm industry leaders Jan. 29 during the organization’s annual Cenarrusa Day on the Hill event.
During the event, hundreds of FFA members meet face-to-face with state lawmakers and ag industry leaders. One of the main goals is to help sharpen the students’ leadership skills and provide them with a first-hand experience of the legislative process.
“The main purpose of this (event) is to bring legislators into contact with the ag ed students, the FFA students, throughout the state of Idaho,” said Canyon County farmer Sid Freeman, scholarship raffle chairman for the FFA Foundation.
He said the Day on the Hill event is extremely important for FFA students because “it kind of breaks them out of their shell and lets them know at a young age that they can sit down with legislators, have lunch with them, visit with them and talk with them about important issues.”
About 350 FFA members and guests attended a luncheon that kicks off the event. Guests included the governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state controller, superintendent of public instruction and director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
“This organization, to me, is incredibly important because it stimulates an interest in agriculture, leadership and life-long learning,” Gov. Brad Little told FFA members during the luncheon. “It’s a pathway to traditional higher education and innovative careers….”
The FFA program becomes more important as the percentage of Americans involved in production agriculture continues to shrink, said Little, a rancher and farmer from Emmett.
“I’m a big supporter and I will always continue to be a big supporter of (FFA),” he said. “I am very optimistic about the future of rural Idaho and the future of agriculture, particularly when I’m in a room like this and see all of your faces.”
Little was presented with an Honorary American FFA Degree during the event for his lifelong support of agricultural education and the FFA program.
Freeman said the FFA program is also important for the state’s agricultural industry because many people who go through it will fill important jobs in the state’s farming and ranching industry in the near future.
“The continuing growth of the FFA and agricultural education is extremely important because the average age of the farmer just keeps getting higher and higher and there’s not enough folks in the pipeline to take our places,” he said. “I just came out of a meeting earlier this morning where they were talking about how agribusinesses are looking for students to fill their pipelines.”
The luncheon is named for former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who died in 2013 and whose 51 years in the legislative and executive branches of Idaho government make him the longest-serving public servant in state history.
Cenarrusa, a sheep rancher, started the first ag classes at Cambridge and Carey high schools and was known as a champion of Idaho agriculture.
During the Day on the Hill luncheon, the Northwest Agriculture Cooperative Council, which sponsors the event, presented Friend of the Industry awards to Sen. Linda Wright Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, and Rep. Jerald Raymond, R-Menan.
NACC lobbyist Rick Waitley said the annual awards are given to legislators who have demonstrated outstanding leadership for Idaho agriculture and have been supportive of rural cooperatives.
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