VALOR class members were in Richmond, Va., from Feb. 11-14, 2013 to learn about legislative advocacy and policy development. While meeting with Martha Moore of Virginia Farm Bureau Governmental Relations and Donna Pugh Johnson, past-president, Virginia Agribusiness Council, the class received firsthand information about lobbying and relationship building. The seasoned lobbyists shared the importance of connectedness and truth in the work that they do. Class members received media and interview training from the communications staff at Virginia Farm Bureau. Participants were tasked with discussing the issue of cost share support for environmental protection. Norm Hyde, video production supervisor, and Sherri McKinney, senior video producer, asked everyone to communicate in sound bites and to stay focused on their message despite the interviewers’ off-topic questions. The training proved to be fun and challenging.
Megan Seibel, VALOR Director, and Kelsey Brunton, program graduate research assistant, conducted two dynamic workshops related to visioning, communication, and inspiring action. Class members were given the thought-provoking task of envisioning the future of agriculture. Participants also learned the importance of communicating beliefs and purpose when discussing a new idea.
Class members sat in on the Virginia House Agriculture Committee Meeting and later talked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Equality Director, David K. Paylor. He explained the current relationship between DEQ, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in addition to fielding questions about what the future relationship between the groups could be. Then Delegate Robert “Bobby” Orrock discussed the power of local politics and dire need for people in the industry to communicate the importance of agriculture to people outside of the industry. This is one of the main objectives of the VALOR program. He noted that years ago many Virginia politicians were farm owners, but today most delegates are one or two generations removed from the farm.
Delegate Orrock introduced the VALOR class individually from House floor at the start of the session on Feb. 13. Class members scheduled office visits with their General Assembly members and introduced themselves as a resource for agricultural issues and a member of the VALOR program. Later in the day, the class enjoyed a tour of the Virginia Capitol Building and heard about the early influences of agriculture in government.
A highlight of the session was experiencing legislation-in-action while being honored by a Cabinet Room talk with Gov. Bob McDonnell, Chief of Staff Martin Kent, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Travis Hill on Feb. 14. Cabinet representatives were very generous with their time and engaged with class members in discussions relating to agriculture, trade, and economics in Virginia. The governor thanked the class for their leadership in the industry and their contributions to the commonwealth. Check out the blog and the Governor’s page to learn more about Seminar IV.
Seminar V is scheduled for May 10-15, 2013 in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. Class members will experience urban agriculture and learn about national agricultural policy.