If you recall, last fall I did several interviews with several other members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (“NCBA”) Young Producers’ Council (“YPC”) leadership board. In case you missed it, you can go back and read the interviews with Brandon Carlson, Dustin Dean, Holly Foster (Part I and Part II), and Ben Neale. I am still on the YPC leadership team and will be posting interviews with other members later this summer. However, for the next month or so I will be spotlighting some great women I met two weeks ago at the American Agri-Women (“AAW”) – Syngenta “Leadership At Its Best” Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s always exciting to hear from strong women in agriculture. First up will be my roommate for the week– Mary Meinhart from Montrose, Illinois (near my hometown).
1. Please explain your connection to the agriculture industry.
I was born on a dairy farm and married a pork producer. I have always lived on a farm except for the 3 years I lived in St. Louis going to nurses training. As a child I worked on the farm by milking cows and drivign the tractor doing field work. When married, I continued helping with the livestock chores, doing field work and trucking. Now that our son is working full time on the farm, I mainly do record keeping, provide “meals on wheels” services to everyone in the fields, and am a “goffer” (i.e., go for parts, provide transportation, etc.).
2. How long have you been involved with AAW and in what capacity?
I joined the Illinois Agri-Women (“IAW”) and AAW sometime in the ’70’s when I was involved with the National Pork Producers Council on the state level and one of the founders of the IAW was also active in the Illinois Pork Producers Assocation (“IPPA”). She told me about the organization. I was involved in other groups at the time and was not able to attend many meetings but always stayed a member as I believe in the work the organization is doing. The newsletters were an excellent source of information as to what was going on at the state and national levels.
3. What other agriculture organizations do you support?
American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Illinois Soybean Association, National Pork Producers’ Council, and Illinois Pork Producers Association
4. Why do you think it is important for agriculture women to support AAW and other agriculture organizations?
If we don’t stand up for what we believe and speak out, we will be legislated out of business by those who do not understand where their food comes from. Ag organizations are our best opportunity to accomplish this goal — collectively we can accomplish more than we can individually.
5. What are your biggest agriculture policy concerns on the national level?
a) Animal rights groups;
b) Estate taxes — if it is not changed by next year, it will destroy agriculture and the private business segment of the economy which made this country strong; and
c) Ill-advised EPA regulations.
6. What are some of your largest agriculture policy concerns on the state level in Illinois?
b) Real estate taxes (especially since they are a large source of funding for schools) because agriculture producers pay significant real estate taxes while higher income professions pay far less;
c) Illinois EPA has too much authority without proper accountability;
d) Fees the government officials put on business so they don’t have to call it a “tax” (this has caused businesses to leave Illinois and decreased revenue for the state);
e) Problems with the public fighting the establishment of new livestock facilities even if they have followed the law; and
f) Deficit spending.
7. Do you have any agriculture policy concerns at the local level?
Being able to use the roads to get our commodities to the market.
8. What was your highlight at the AAW-Syngenta “Leadership At Its Best Conference?”
Learning to use social media and how important it is to get the message of agriculture to the public and learning how to deal with “difficult interviewers.”
9. If you could say anything to consumers in urban America that have never been to a farm/ranch, what would you tell them?
Farmers are the original animal welfare proponents and environmentalists. We must take care of our animals and our land to be profitable and in order to be able to pass the land to the next generation in better condition than we recieved it.
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