Every time I have a chance to meet the younger generation of ag leaders in this country, it gives me a good feeling. That’s how I felt recently when I met a small group representing this year’s National Cotton Council Emerging Leaders Program. The program, sponsored by a grant to The Cotton Foundation from Monsanto, is an excellent way for class participants to gain an in-depth look at the U.S. cotton industry infrastructure and the business and political arenas in which it operates.
More importantly, the class gets a chance to participate in some intensive media training. Ultimately, this training will help these young people become better prepared to handle their future responsibilities as U.S. cotton leaders.
This is the second year that some of my ag media friends and I have met with the class and shared tips on how to deal with the media. As it turns out, these young folks are even more savvy than I could have imagined. They are obviously informed on all of the big issues confronting the industry, and they are unafraid when it comes to dealing with the media.
After spending several hours with them and discussing ways to better communicate their message to the public, I came away with an optimistic feeling about ag’s future. True, there will always be a never ending battle to persuade Congress and the general public about ag’s importance to our nation’s economy. But whereas some older farmers might want to be low key in their approach to the media, these young folks seem determined to be proactive.
During this most recent session with the class, we did mock interviews where the media representative conducted spontaneous interviews with not much time for preparation. Following the interviews, the entire class and NCC staff helped evaluate each performance. This kind of training is invaluable for several reasons. Our industry can’t hide under a rock and hope that the message gets communicated in the right way. Young ag leaders must be forceful and yet have a respectful but take-charge attitude when necessary.
For many years, the NCC has helped develop young cotton industry leaders, and I have had the privilege of seeing many of these young people become even more informed and adept in carrying out their responsibilities.
So, if you’re ever wondering about how the cotton industry will look in the next decade or so, have no fear. These young folks that I met are more than ready for the challenge.