Urban-Ag Academy is a worthy endeavor

There was a time when the majority of those people elected to the nation’s legislatures knew a great deal about the issues that are important to rural America. Most of them had either grown up on farms or in the small towns that depended on the farm economy to thrive.

Today, however, much of the population is concentrated in cities or their suburbs. More and more 21st century lawmakers grew up in and represent urban areas. Many of them have had very limited personal exposure to agriculture. Unfortunately, this lack of direct contact with rural America can result in limited interest in and concern about those public policy matters that are of crucial importance in farm country.

State Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, launched an initiative in 2011 designed to give minority and urban legislators an opportunity to learn more about agricultural and rural issues. She created the Urban-Ag Academy, a multi-day conference that affords these public officials the chance to immerse themselves in a world that they don’t really understand.

Now in its fourth year, the 2015 edition of the Urban-Ag Academy gets underway today in Ames. Friday, the participants will spend the day in Fort Dodge. They will attend informational sessions on the campus of Iowa Central Community College and make visits to key area agricultural sites such as Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation and major agriculture-related industries.

According to the Urban-Ag Academy’s mission statement, its “goal is to provide a real opportunity for urban and minority legislators to learn more about agricultural and rural issues. By bringing urban, minority and rural policymakers together with experts in agriculture, rural development and other relevant areas, we begin to create opportunities for all legislators to be fully engaged in the conversation and efforts to move this sector of our constituencies forward.”

That’s a worthy undertaking that this newspaper heartily supports.

Miller has partnered with Iowa State University to make the Urban-Ag Academy an annual event that is becoming more and more impressive each year. Its growing importance is illustrated by the fact that this year it has attracted nearly two dozen sponsors.

The Messenger commends Helen Miller for her vision in creating this superb venture. We are delighted that on Friday this year’s academy participants will have the chance to learn about the trend-setting agricultural pursuits that are taking place right here in Webster County.


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