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Leadership for agriculture and the dairy industry. Stepping forward!

Neil Broadwater, Extension Educator-Dairy
December 24, 2011

This is my last article in Dairy Star as I will be retiring from University of Minnesota Extension at the end of this year after 36 years of service in the organization. I started in January of 1976 as a 4-H Agent in Waseca County and then moved to Winona County in April 1978 to serve as Agriculture Agent and Extension Director. In 2004 after working for 26 years from the Winona County Extension Office, I moved to my present regional position to conduct dairy programs across the state along with my dairy team colleagues.

One of my responsibilities since 2004 has been to schedule and edit the articles written by the University of Minnesota Dairy Team and published in Dairy Star. Since the first two articles were published in the September 11, 2004 issue under the U of M Dairy Connection banner, 350 articles (as of this past December 10th issue) have been written by dairy team members. This has provided the dairy team a wonderful opportunity to reach producers and dairy industry advisors across the state. Our goal has been to provide the latest research-based information and management practices that may help dairy families stay profitable and improve their way of life. My thanks to the Dairy Star staff for their cooperation in this effort these past years.

As we look ahead the agriculture industry, including dairy, are facing many challenges. This will continue to be the case as changes are taking places at a faster pace than ever before. Many issues must be tackled and addressed. These include state and local environmental issues, water quality issues, feedlot issues, food safety, farm safety, land use and policy, agri-business structures, and transportation issues. The advantage to one individual or group for adoption of a policy may be a disadvantage to another. Where is the right balance when it comes to these issues?

There is no doubt that the agriculture industry, regulators, policy makers and citizen groups must closely work together to better understand each other's concerns and issues. Policy decisions must be based on sound, science- based information. An ideological debate about agricultural practices should be avoided. These policy decisions must strike a balance of what is acceptable to farm families so they can be profitable and yet provide standards to protect our natural resources. Throughout the state, there are hearings and other public meetings that take place from time to time related to feedlot and zoning issues, water quality issues and building or housing permits. Sometimes those who make statements or testify know little about agriculture's side of the issues. Farm organization and commodity group leaders as well as individual farmers need to appear at these hearings and meetings to provide the facts and discuss how those in agriculture are working to preserve and protect our natural resources and the environment.

Therefore, consider stepping forward and being a leader who can make a difference for agriculture and your local community. The opportunities are there for you to grab. Good leaders with vision and courage will always be needed. Take an active interest in local, state and federal issues that affect your dairy farm operation or could affect it in the future. Present your side of the story on local zoning, land use and feedlot issues. Good leaders are always needed for the school board, township board, county board, DHIA board, and other groups. Young farmers need to learn how to be ready to take charge to help shape tomorrow's agriculture and dairy industry. Leaders are needed who can inform consumers about the greatness of U.S. agriculture and what is being done to safely feed the world, protect the environment and care for our animals.

If you think you cannot be a leader, remember there is no template or personality type for a good leader. Leaders come in all sizes, shapes, generations, backgrounds and experiences. Individuals can become leaders through education and training or just stepping into situations to get experience. Leadership skills can be learned and perfected such as the use of interpersonal skills to achieve goals in spite of obstacles and difficulties. Leadership requires courage but can be rewarding. In the end, the sacrifice of time and the effort needed can be the worthiness of the cause and the ability to make a difference. So, step forward. Your community, agriculture and the dairy industry in Minnesota needs you. You have a chance to have an impact.

It has been a pleasure to meet so many wonderful people in the dairy industry and work with many farm families throughout my Extension career. My hope is that we continue to have a prosperous Minnesota dairy industry for many years to come. May all your "dairy dreams" come true.

Leadership is the challenge to be something more than average. - Jim Rohn
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Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is. - Will Rogers
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