The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet provides a glimpse into the issues facing the agriculture industry and the young people who are passionate about finding solutions. Each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee selects several topics that are relevant to the agriculture industry. These topics serve as discussion prompts for a simulated committee meeting. During the meet, contestants share their ideas and knowledge to productively work toward solutions. The Discussion Meet features a wide range of topics touching on issues like health, agriculture technology, hunger and economics. The 2019 Collegiate Discussion Meet winner, Sarah Byrd, remembers studying extensively prior to the competition.

“You have no idea which question will be used the night of the competition, so it is just constant preparation,”  Byrd says. “To prepare for the competition, I listened to podcasts while driving or working, read articles and discussed the issues with people who work in the industry.”

Collegiate Discussion Meet questions push contestants to enhance their problem solving skills through real life issues faced by the agriculture industry.

“Farm Bureau does a great job of creating the questions to cover a broad range of topics,”  Byrd says.

For 2017 Collegiate Discussion Meet winner, Karli Stringer, the competition inspired her chosen field of agriculture research.

“I remember, my year, there was a question about international perceptions of food,” Stringer says. “I later selected this as the topic for my thesis.”

Through discussion and problem solving, the competition trains young people to be leaders. Contestants are not only equipped to be leaders within the agriculture industry, but also to be a spokesperson to their communities and policy makers. For Byrd, the competition helped give her the confidence to use her voice for agriculture.

“Participating in this competition gave me the confidence to speak publicly about agriculture and engage in productive dialogue on agricultural issues,” Byrd says.

Emma Jumper, the 2015 Collegiate Discussion Meet winner, also voiced her passion for speaking on agricultural issues.

“Despite agriculture’s incredible visibility in America, its millions of acres are only superficially seen by the public. That’s why our words matter,”  Jumper says.

As a law student, Jumper appreciates how the competition helped her to understand how policy interacts with issues faced by farmers.

“Developing my understanding of what principles back the policies of Farm Bureau was integral to my educational pathway and my career outlook,” Jumper says.

Beyond personal and professional development, Collegiate Discussion Meet contestants are also rewarded through scholarships, which assist them in continuing their education. The winner receives a scholarship for $2,000 and the opportunity to compete in the American Farm Bureau Federation Collegiate Discussion Meet. All contestants who reach the final round also receive a $500 scholarship. The 2022 Collegiate Discussion Meet will be held this October in Starkville, Mississippi.