“Just the chance to network with people outside of your own state or even country I think was good for the group,” Snell said.

Sam Hendrickson, from Union County, made the trip too. Hendrickson, who also completed KyFarmStart, farms 2,000 acres with his brother in Union and surrounding counties, raising cattle and growing corn, wheat and soybeans.

He was one of 2,000 national recipients of a USDA Transition Incentives Program contract, which provided funds for the transition of expiring Conservation Reserve Program land from a retired or retiring owner or operator to a beginning farmer or rancher, with the intent of returning land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production.

He had the opportunity at the outlook forum to tell the USDA representative how much he appreciated the program.

Hardy said that when the farmers stood up to talk, both at the forum and to legislative staff, people listened.

“There were very few agricultural producers in attendance (at the forum),” he said. “When our producers stood up at the mike and said, ‘I’m an early-career farmer from the eastern Corn Belt,’ that got people’s attention.”

They also got attention from legislative staffers during sessions that were informative for both the staffers and the agents and producers.

“It was good to get a feel for what they do and the processes they have to go through to talk to people and get things done,” Hendrickson said.

“They’ve just got so much they can cover and without someone coming in like us and giving their points of view, they’re kind of at a loss. They appreciate people coming in and telling them what’s going on out there in the field.”

One of the topics they talked to the staff about was crop insurance and how important that tool is to their operations, particularly in a year like 2012 when drought seriously reduced yields.

“I think anybody representing the state of Kentucky could see the real value of that program,” Horn said. “We had a pretty tough year here, and crop insurance was a big part of keeping those farm profits in the black.

“So we talked about the value of crop insurance, how well it worked for us this past year, what issues we saw in the program and how much we wanted their support.”

For Hardy, the results of the trip exceeded his expectations.

“In Extension, we’re only as good as the people in our community,” he said.

“So my goal with this trip, and my goal in a lot of Extension programs that we have here in our area, is really centered on leadership development. These folks had the leadership ability to begin with, but we try to identify ways for them to be able to implement that. Throughout their careers, I think they’ll draw on this experience.”


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