The nation’s first Urban-Ag Academy was held in Iowa last weekend to help foster cooperation and understanding between agriculture and urban areas. Founded and hosted by State Rep. Helen Miller of Ft. Dodge, who also serves as Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, the day long academy featured producers, educators, legislators, and leaders of Iowa’s agricultural sector.

“I am very pleased with the success of the inaugural Urban-Ag Academy program and the response from both non-rural legislators and agricultural interests.  Both the legislators and the farmers and producers expressed great enthusiasm for learning from each other,” said Rep. Miller.  “Their involvement as well as that of world-class educators from Iowa State University highlights the importance of such an effort to bring both urban and rural interests together.  I firmly believe this is just the beginning for the Urban-Ag Academy.”

Dr. Michael Duffy, Professor, Dept. of Economics, ISU said of the Urban-Ag Academy initiative: “I think the idea of an Urban-Ag Academy is excellent.  Too often the discussions are geared to trying to convince someone to accept your point of view.  The Academy offers individuals the opportunities to hear from a variety of sources, question the discussion and conclusions of the speakers and then formulate their own position.  This is not an us and them situation, it’s an us situation and we all have to try and understand the others point of view.  The Academy provides the opportunity for a discussion not an indoctrination or confrontational position.  I appreciate being a part of the Academy and I especially appreciate the time and effort to put the Academy together.”

Miller said the purpose of the Urban-Ag Academy is to bring urban and minority leaders and policy makers together; inform an ever-increasing number of urban legislators on ag issues; educate non-rural legislators on the often unseen effects on and potential benefits to their districts; and lay the groundwork for a national conference for non-rural policy makers nationwide.

John Baker, Attorney at Law and Administrator of the Beginning Farmer Center; collaborator on the Urban-Ag Academy project stated:  “Over the years I have attended many conferences attended by legislators and without exception all the conferences were designed for advocacy.  The Urban Ag Academy is the first in my experience that was designed by legislators for legislators and hosted by legislators.  As a result it was well attended and informative.  The speakers provided information on the opportunities in and contributions of agriculture to Iowa’s economy and social well-being.  The Academy was structured to allow the opportunity legislators to ask the speakers questions.  Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of meetings.”