MSU, Farm Bureau Announce Agricultural Leadership Program

   Mississippi State University and Mississippi Farm Bureau leaders gathered Monday in the Capitol to announce the new Thad Cochran Agricultural Leadership Program developed by the MSU Extension Service.
   The program is open to Mississippi's next generation of agricultural leaders – young professionals including farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness owners and operators – as well as extended agricultural industry specialists, such as foresters and conservationists. The Thad Cochran Agricultural Leadership program will develop this diverse group's leadership skills, enhance their understanding of policy-making, and increase their communication and collaborative abilities.
   Extension will deliver the educational activities and content for nine intensive seminars over the two-year course. Mississippi Farm Bureau is sponsoring the program.
   “MSU has long benefitted from our partnership on many fronts with the Mississippi Farm Bureau,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “We commend the Farm Bureau for their efforts to promote agricultural leadership and share their recognition of just how appropriate it is to name this program in honor of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. Sen. Cochran has been a real champion of U.S. and global agriculture for decades.”
   A 38-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, Cochran is a longstanding leader and advocate for agriculture, both in Mississippi and around the country, Keenum said. Cochran’s contributions to the U.S. farm bill and the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as his service as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, have aided Mississippi agricultural stakeholders, as well as rural producers throughout the U.S.
   The leadership course has been in development for about three years, said program director Laura Greenhaw, an assistant Extension professor. When she joined MSU in 2013, MSU Extension Director Gary Jackson requested that Greenhaw develop an adult agricultural leadership course similar to other such programs around the country. These educational seminars target agricultural professionals who represent the full range of the industry and have five or six years of experience in agriculture. Generally, candidates are between 37 and 45 years old.
   “Dr. Jackson wanted to develop this adult agricultural leadership program, and he has cultivated these relationships with the Farm Bureau that led to its sponsorship and implementation,” Greenhaw said. “We are going to serve the agricultural industry by providing professional development in tangible and applicable leadership skills for emerging leaders that allows them to serve agriculture in advanced leadership roles and may propel them into further public service.
   “Thad Cochran also comes from agricultural roots, and he has spent his life in public service,” she continued. “We want to develop these young leaders in public service, too, and prepare them to become efficient and effective leaders.”
   Greenhaw said this partnership with the Farm Bureau will enable the first participating class to begin the program in fall 2017. A new website, including application materials, will launch soon, and participants will be selected and notified by Sept. 1.
   Continued individual, organizational and community investment will offer additional opportunities to the leaders of tomorrow, Greenhaw emphasized. The Mississippi Program for Advancement of Agricultural Leadership Fund for Excellence is available through the MSU Foundation to contribute to the Thad Cochran Agricultural Leadership Program, or to other agricultural leadership initiatives at the university.
   Contact Will Staggers, assistant director of development, at 662-325-2873 or to learn more about giving opportunities, or visit to discover more about Extension educational programming. ∆
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