National FFA's Man on Capitol Hill, Riley Pagett of Woodward, Shares His Full-Circle FFA ExperienceFri, 04 May 2018 11:35:05 CDT
Not long ago, Riley Pagett of Woodward, Okla. was travelling around the country speaking to FFA members as their National President. These days, he stays mostly in Washington, DC and rather than speaking to members - he speaks on their behalf. Pagett sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays during the Oklahoma State FFA Convention this week to talk about his role in the National FFA Organization today as Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity to go back and work for National FFA in Washington, DC,” Pagett said, reflecting on his career since being a national officer that allowed him to work with some of Oklahoma’s leaders on Capitol Hill including then House Ag Chair Frank Lucas during the writing of the 2014 Farm Bill. “It’s just been a really cool full-circle moment getting to go into some those offices on the Hill and interact with our government, representatives and elected officials to tell the story of agriculture education, agriculture career and tech ed and then of course FFA.”
In DC, Pagett runs into nearly every level of ag-literacy when advocating for the organization and its mission. No matter the extent to which a person understands agriculture and the industry’s priorities, Pagett says one thing is constant - the recognition of the good that comes from the young people who don the blue and gold jackets. Pagett says he simply has to fill in the holes of that visual with details on how the organization has accomplished such success at grooming and preparing future generations of leaders in the ag industry.
“It’s a fun job for me, but I think it’s a really cool opportunity and a much needed one,” he said. “When we’re able to get FFA members in those meetings and tell them our story and how FFA has benefitted us and how we’re better served because of the programs in which we participated in.”
Legislatively, Pagett says the National FFA is engaged with both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate to amend the organization’s federal charter with the US Department of Education. Practically untouched since its creation in 1950 (aside from a few minor technical amendments in the late ‘90s), this amendment will help update the organization’s ties to the US Department of Education - positioning it for future success moving into a new modern era of agriculture. One of the major changes that this legislation will facilitate is the option to expand the number of national officers.
“We serve a wide variety of members in every neck of the woods in the US and we’ve grown a lot since the 1950s,” he remarked. “Is it just six that makes sense? I don’t know… But, why should the US Department of Education be the ones telling us we’re limited to only six?”
In addition, National FFA has been integral in the US Department of Agriculture’s recent movement to create a position in the Secretary’s office to coordinate specifically with youth organizations in agriculture like the FFA. Pagett expressed the organization’s excitement for the prospect of having a voice inside the USDA which he believes will foster further cooperation among the agricultural community and better align the industry’s goals and agenda.
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