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by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

  Last month 17 4-H members attended and testified at a hearing of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research. As the story in AgriPulse read, the 17 young adults, who were delegates to the National 4-H Conference, shared their passions about the future of agriculture and emphasized why it’s more important than ever to build “bridges” between rural and urban residents.

These outstanding rural youth, most likely between the ages of 17 and 18, must have really had their act together or they wouldn’t have been picked to testify before Congress. We know a 4-H upbringing provides youth the opportunity to excel. They were from all over this nation and were from urban, suburban and rural areas, raising livestock ranging from “fluffy rabbits” to goats to grand champion steers.

The tone was set by the Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) in his opening statement addressing the challenges in enacting the 2014 Farm Bill.

Davis said, “If we do not mend the divide between rural and urban areas and foster a widespread understanding of the food and fiber industries and the impact they have on everyday life, it is likely we may face the same challenges in enacting future farm bills. Bridging the gap between rural and urban areas is essential to the passage and implementation of future food and agricultural legislation.” 

The ranking Democrat member Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) totally agreed, saying, “We need to do a better job of educating people on the importance of agriculture and continue to build rural and urban coalitions, so that people’s understanding of food extends beyond what appears on grocery store shelves.”

In their testimony, the 4-H delegates talked about how they’re working to bridge the rural-urban gap. One 10-year member of 4-H, Harley Rogers from a Texas cattle ranching family, explained what she had accomplished. She said that when she started marketing beef in Farm-to-Table markets in the Austin and Dallas areas, she was constantly asked questions about her beef products. The young rancher invited a consumer who was concerned about Rogers’ steers to visit her ranch to see the cattle and her everyday routine. The two of them became friends, and the person would come to the stock shows Rogers showed steers at and experience what all went on. 

Another delegate also shared how agriculture education is helping to bridge the gap. Garrett Tomera, a sixth-generation rancher, is from a family who has been involved in the industry in northern Nevada for more than 150 years. As he and his family noticed producers and consumers growing apart, they looked for ways to connect with consumers. In his community, the Agriculture in the Classroom program is a tool through which producers teach students about farming and ranching.

This raises two thoughts on two different programs. First, we in Wyoming realize all the good that Agriculture in the Classroom does. We have an excellent program here in Wyoming, and some great people running it. We also know all the good that our 4-H clubs do. I’ve heard complaints about the urban youth and programs in today’s 4-H. But guess what? Those youth and programs are helping to bridge the gap between rural and urban people, which, in turn helps us as food and fiber producers. 

As adults, we have not done a great job in bridging this gap. We need to step back and learn from our youth and their programs.

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