Texas Farm Bureau member James O’Brien is among the young farmers and ranchers who have been selected by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) as the organization’s ninth Partners in Advocacy Leadership class.
AFBF created the PAL curriculum as a high-level, executive training program that prepares participants to represent agriculture in the media, in public speaking, in congressional testimony and other advocacy arenas. Program graduates are given opportunities to step forward and promote awareness about issues important to farmers and consumers.
“Effective engagement across the board drives agriculture’s success, and equipping young leaders for that mission is vital,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Each member of the new PAL class is a leader among leaders, and we look forward to seeing each progress to the highest levels of agricultural advocacy.”
O’Brien is a member of Bee County Farm Bureau and a former Texas Farm Bureau AgLead participant.
“Being in AgLead really lit my fire. It brought to my attention there just aren’t enough farmers and ranchers communicating with the legislature and the public to address their concerns and their questions,” O’ Brien said. “We need to start addressing the stigma that agriculture is bad, to better communicate with different audiences. If I stand on the sidelines and say there isn’t enough people but don’t act, then I don’t feel very effective. This is my way of doing my part to advocate for agriculture.”
O’Brien and his wife, Tonni, raise their two daughters on the ranch. They have a cow-calf operation and raise American Quarter horses in South Texas. It’s a lifestyle that’s important to O’Brien and one he hopes to pass along to his daughters.
“Farming and ranching teaches you accountability and responsibility. It’s what I want my daughters to learn,” he said. “I want them to have that passion for agriculture. By us sharing our stories on social media, communicating with legislators and testifying on the Hill for agriculture, we are helping secure the future of agriculture.”
Other members of PAL Class 9 are: Angi Bailey, Oregon; John Boelts, Arizona; April Clayton, Washington; Becca Ferry, Utah; Amy France, Kansas, Amelia Kent, Louisiana; Matt Niswander, Tennessee; Tyson Roberts, Utah; and Jamie Tiralla, Maryland.
PAL training involves four learning modules designed to develop specific advocacy skills while exploring components of leadership and its theories and philosophies. The modules build on one another over the two years of the program and include intense, in-person, hands-on training.
PAL graduates emerge with the experience and confidence—in everything from legislative policy-making and issues management to social media and media relations—to effectively engage all critical stakeholders.
To be eligible for the PAL program, candidates must be between the ages of 30 and 45 with demonstrated leadership skills. The program is sponsored by AFBF, Farm Credit and Monsanto Company.