Young ag leaders gather to strengthen industrys future

Oct 16, 2009
by WLJ
Young ag leaders gather to strengthen industry’s future

More than 130 young people from across the state learned about estate planning, climate change regulation’s affect on agriculture, wind energy and activism during the 6th Annual Young Agricultural Leadership Conference Oct. 2-4 in Helena, MT.

The conference kicked off with dinner and a barn dance at the Kleffner Ranch where attendees had the opportunity to enjoy great food and mingle with other young farmers and ranchers. Saturday’s full-day schedule featured a variety of workshops, starting with national speaker Bob Treadway, a futurist who talked about the economy and making a plan for the future.

“What you need to do in a down market is selectively trim your expenses, then reset, reboot and rethink,” Treadway told the group. “Move closer to the capital, that is, get to know your banker and share your plans with him or her. Don’t be a slave to the market; do something different.”

He said it’s important to be a proactive, outspoken leader for the ag industry. “Animal agriculture is getting criticized by quasi-professionals and Hollywood actors—be ready for it,” he cautioned. Treadway pointed out that forecasting—not predicting—the future and doing things differently can give you a fresh outlook. “The next 50 years are going to be the most exciting time for agriculture,” he said confidently.

Marsha Goetting, Montana State University, also talked about planning, but in a personal way with your estate. “You need to definitely plan to make sure your farm or ranch goes to the next generation. Remember, if you don’t plan, Montana law will come in and make those decisions,” she noted. Goetting covered beneficiary deeds, right of survivorship, life insurance beneficiaries, and other terms helpful to know in estate cases.

Planning was also the theme of a wind energy workshop where Sarah Hamlen and Milt Geiger discussed wind energy in Montana and Wyoming, having a good contract, and pointing out the pitfalls. “Be very careful of automatic renewals on any contract, and make sure the company has a bond to put the land back the way it was before the energy company came in,” noted Hamlen.

The cap and trade issue was tackled by Laura Sands of the Clark Group, who pointed out that if the Environmental Protection Agency moves ahead with climate change regulations, it’s the most expensive route the country can take.

“Agriculture definitely needs to get into any discussion on cap and trade and advocate its interests,” Sands urged. She talked about how cap and trade works, and how it could be beneficial to some farmers.

“However, there‘s not much benefit in the current cap and trade bills for livestock, rice and cotton,” she said. “Agriculturalists are also urged to look out for language on indirect land use—that means that in order to make any operational changes on your farm, you would have to first show what global effect those changes would have.”

The ever-popular discussion groups followed where eight ag association leaders, legislators and farmers answered questions from the group on everything ranging from water issues to biotech to running for office.

Sunday morning’s speaker, Bruce Vincent, founder of Provider Pals, once again wowed the audience with his insight into the “collision of vision” between residents of Montana and people who vacation in the state and want to protect it.

“These people feel that when it comes to the natural environment, people are disposable,” Vincent opined.

“When folks spew misinformation, the media prints it and society supports it. The environmental movement was on the right track and came up with things like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act; but along the way, its leadership took a hard left, and realized they could make a bunch of money from fear. They have turned what had been a positive social movement into a multi-billion dollar industry.”

Vincent said that in the 1990s, logging and forestry was “their big pi ata, but that’s not producing anymore, so they’ve turned to agriculture with issues like animal rights and water quality.”

Vincent said the only way to turn the ship around is through education. “Tell the truth. Go to the public and ask what they want to know. Tell your story,” he said. — WLJ