House Ag Committee Chief Economist Credits FFA for His SuccessTue, 22 Apr 2014 03:40:21 CDT
One of the key players behind the scenes in the crafting and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill was Oklahoma's Bart Fischer. As the chief economist for the House Agriculture Committee, he was instrumental throughout the process as budgets were constantly being renegotiated time and time again in search of compromises that would finally allow for passage.
It was a tough process, but, ultimately, Fischer credits his successful work on the project with Congressman Frank Lucas in no small measure to his time spent in FFA. (He spoke recently with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays. You can listen to their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)
Fischer grew up on a farm just outside of Frederick and went to school in Chattanooga and never really gave participation in FFA much thought.
"From a very early age I grew up helping my dad and my grandfather on our family farm, so it was kind of a foregone conclusion that I was going to be involved in FFA when the time came. I got an early start in 4-H showing livestock and transitioned into FFA showing Limousin cattle, participating in speech contests and then working on my SAE at home which was my farming enterprise which was my farming enterprise that I had alongside my dad's and my grandfather's."
Fischer said the highlight of his FFA career was being selected the Star Farmer in Oklahoma in 1998, but some of his strongest and most instructional memories were from the times he didn't win various competitions he was entered in.
"My parents and my ag teachers were always very big in teaching persistence--that if it didn't work out the way you intended, to get back up and move on. I can point back in my life to several times where that happened and I think I am where I am today in the position I am with the opportunities I have largely because of those times that actually didn't work out the way that I intended."
As he began his college career at OSU, Fischer thought he might get into some form of agriculture policymaking and adding accounting and finance to his ag economics work took him more toward the business side of agriculture. When he found himself passed over in the final round for scholarships at several major universities for post graduate work, his persistence instead led him to Cambridge University and scholarships provided by some benefactors from OSU.
Fischer took a job with the Government Accountability Office in Washington after he completed his education at Cambridge and spent four years as a senior analyst there. Wishing to get back into ag policy, he moved to a position at Texas A&M and began working on his Ph.D. He began working on developing decision tools which were part of the 2008 Farm Bill and, little did he know at the time, he would find himself back in Washington, D.C., helping write what would ultimately become the 2014 Farm Bill.
"You never know the twists and turns that life is going to take, but the goal is to be prepared for when they do."
Fischer said that aside from learning perseverance, his background in FFA has helped him in many ways in his current position. One of the ways is in thinking about how one's actions affect others. He said that in working with Congressman Frank Lucas, that is a focus that is constantly before them: how are the policies we are enacting in Washington affecting those people back on the farm? He said he is an introvert by nature, but now finds himself speaking in front of large groups. He said his experience in public speaking in FFA gave him the background and ability to step outside his nature and be comfortable speaking in his present occupation.
Even though he lives in Washington now, Fischer said he is still very much connected back home and with FFA. He and his wife sponsor speaking competitions and internships for FFA students interested in careers in agriculture policymaking.
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