As President-elect of the Nebraska Agricultural Agents Association, I had the opportunity to participate in the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference in April of 2014. The goal of PILD is professional development and public issues education. I never had the opportunity to visit D.C. that time of year before and the cherry blossoms were just opening when the group of us from Nebraska arrived. By the time we left they were in full bloom-just beautiful with an amazing fragrance! Our delegation was Monte Stauffer (representing 4-H), Patricia Jones (representing Food/Nutrition), Diane Vigna (representing community development), and myself along with our Dean and Director Dr. Chuck Hibberd.
For me, these conferences are about networking and people and I truly enjoyed seeing my Ag Extension colleagues from across the U.S. The conference was very much focused on celebrating 100 years of Cooperative Extension and the challenges/opportunities Extension faces in the next 100 years.
Sessions included discussing how to determine public value of what we do and the debate continues to be how do we extrapolate information and who gets the credit. I think Nebraska is on track with much of what we do in this area as we’ve had many similar discussions here. There were also discussions about the relevance of Extension and the need to share information several ways; again, I think we have people in Nebraska leading the way in this effort. But it is critically important for ALL of Extension to be repackaging our information several ways to reach our customers where they view information.
We had the opportunity to interact with National Institute of Food and Agriculture program leaders to express the critical needs for the people we serve in hopes of influencing where research and extension initiatives should be focused in future grant releases. We also spent a large portion of time discussing different bills of importance to all of our States and determining the key messages we wished to share on the Hill with our Congressmen and Senators.