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By: Ryon Cox & Shelby Eckhardt
September 01, 2013

What event is cause for a mass migration of more than 100 blue corduroy jackets from all over the country to Washington, D.C.? None other than the prestigious State Presidents’ Conference, held annually at our nation’s capitol.

Two representatives from each state FFA association, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, attend the conference each year, which is facilitated by the six national officers. This was our first adventure to embark on as your 2013-14 Texas FFA Travel Team, and we could not have been more excited!

This year’s conference theme was “Suit Up,” focused on using our opportunity as state officers to serve agriculture, the organization, our nation, the world at large and most importantly our members.

We began the process of “suiting up” with a tour of the Arlington National Cemetery. Witnessing the changing of the guard was a humbling reminder of the sacrifice others make on a daily basis to secure our freedoms. Our next stop was a night tour of the monuments in the National Mall; it was awe-inspiring to see the famous tributes to our country’s greatest leaders.

Once the tours were completed, it was time to get down to business. Over the next few days, we attended specialized media training in preparation for our congressional appointments, which included a trip to the “Newseum” and sessions with both sponsors and national officers. We also heard from members of the White House Rural Council, comprised of individuals such as the Senior Advisor on Nutrition, as well as the Senior Advisor on Rural Affairs. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shared insight on matters such as the dispute over passing the Farm Bill, the role of Career and Technical Education in public schools and how to convey the importance of these issues to our congressmen. We learned one of the leading concerns of the agricultural industry today is food production must increase by 70% in order to feed the population of 9 billion projected to live on the earth by 2050.

Armed with this information, we were ready for our appointments on Capitol Hill. We visited with Senator Cornyn’s staff, as well as Representative Ralph Hall, who is the oldest voting member of Congress in history. Besides enjoying the hospitality of fellow Texans, we were able to advocate for the role of CTE programs in schools, which secures the future of FFA chapters everywhere, and discuss the future of the Farm Bill.

Our final task of the conference was to start the national delegate process. Of the 16 issues submitted by the National FFA Board of Directors and various state associations, six issues were chosen to be explored by their own committee. We each chose to serve on one of the six committees as leadership delegates to help direct the discussion and development of ideas. In October at the National FFA Convention, 61 delegates from Texas will join us in addressing these issues as part of the largest state delegation at convention!

State Presidents’ Conference was a week full of making new friends from across the country, advocating for our cause and representing more than 95,000 Texas FFA members with pride. This is your Texas FFA Travel Team, signing off with a simple thanks for believing in us! Stay true. Stay blue, and remember what the FFA can do for you!