Sam Ebenkamp is a junior majoring in agricultural economics with a farm management concentration at Purdue. He has a love for agriculture and the desire to promote it.
"I decided to compete for two reasons. I love talking, and discussing important issues related to American agriculture. Secondly, I'm the Young Farmer Program Representative for Dubois County," Ebenkamp said. "I figured if I'm trying to get these young farmers in my county to do this competition, it is only fair that I compete at the collegiate level."
Preparation for the event can be tricky. A list of five possible questions to be discussed is released the American Farm Bureau Federation several months before the competition. Links to sites for basic background information are provided as well. While we don't know which will be the actual topic contestants need to be versed in all five possibilities.
This year's questions:
1. How would the condition of government-managed public lands change if they were managed privately? What are the pros and cons of government ownership of land versus private ownership?
2. Should farmers and ranchers be held liable for possible foodborne illnesses when the food item of concern can be traced back to their farms or ranches? Why or why not?
3. The farm bill crop insurance provisions offer a safety net for crop loss due to natural disaster and/or price risk. Should a safety net for livestock producers be developed, and what provisions might it include?
4. How can young farmers and ranchers work to encourage membership growth and member engagement for the county, state and national Farm Bureau organizations?
5. How should our nation's policies balance concerns about food insecurity against concerns about the safety or environmental impact of modern agricultural technologies? What role should farmers have in discussing and debating these issues in our society and with our lawmakers?
Ebenkamp said that he really didn't feel as prepared as he could have been since the contest fell during a week he had exams. But that didn't seem to stop him.
"The biggest help I had with the two questions we discussed for the contest actually came from my own experiences," he said. "A salmonella outbreak in a county west of my home, and the implications that some of that has on the farmer when in reality, it was not due to anything they did or could have done."
The second helpful experience came from a meeting with his state legislator last spring. They had discussed where they thought agriculture was today, and where it looks to be going and where government could help.
The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting. Once presented with the topic contestants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas, offer constructive criticism, cooperate and communicate while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions.
In addition to $500 in scholarship money, Ebenkamp receives a trip to Nashville, Tenn., in February to compete in the national contest at the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference.
Keep up with Ebenkamp and his love for agriculture on his blog at www.lifeofafuturefarmer.blogspot.com.