Cochran ag leadership program celebrates newest graduates
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Members of the second class of the Thad Cochran Agricultural Leadership Program have completed the curriculum and assembled one last time Jan. 23 to receive their graduation certificates.
Known also as TCALP, the program provides 22 months of training for emerging leaders in Mississippi agriculture.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service, in partnership with the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, established TCALP to develop participants’ agricultural policy knowledge through research on the U.S. farm bill, correspondence with state and national legislators, and on-site visits to agricultural operations in Mississippi, the U.S. and abroad. Seminar topics included entrepreneurship, agribusiness, leadership theory, public policy, and global markets.
The 11-member second class’s graduation ceremony was held at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation state offices in Jackson.
The class includes Tyler Anderson of Starkville, vice president of branch lending for Mississippi Land Bank; David and Rebekkah Arant of Minter City, owners of Arant Acres and Delta Blues Rice; Rob Baker of Leland, partner of Bourbon Plantation; Hillary Ball of Oxford, seed specialist for Helena Ag; Joseph Erickson of Madison, crop insurance agent with Diversified Services Agency; Jared Freeman of Forest, pullet manager with Koch Foods; Alex Holtcamp of Crawford, farm manager of Holtcamp Farms; Matthew and Kayla Poe of Pontotoc, owners of Poe Farms; and Amanda Stone of Starkville, MSU Extension dairy specialist.
Pandemic-related social distancing guidelines and international travel restrictions forced the second TCALP class to pause activities throughout much of 2020, not long after its first few meetings.
For its overseas trip, the group toured agricultural systems in Brazil, including a private soybean farm in Parańa, the Embrapa Soybean research center, the Fazenda Palmeira coffee plantation and the Castrolanda Cooperative.
“We also spent time with the president of Gran Finale, a company that makes dryers for grain bins,” said TCALP Associate Director Jess Benson. “We had a great educational experience at Fazenda Agripastos, the original innovators of no-till farming in Brazil, and we also toured the world’s second-largest hydroelectric dam, Itaipu.”
Before the international trip, the class traveled to Jackson to speak with legislators and lobbyists and learn about public policy. While there, they attended the Winter Commodity Conference and the Mississippi Farm Bureau and Mississippi State Joint Legislative Reception.
The out-of-state seminar was held in Arizona, where the group learned about the importance of water, migrant labor and vegetable production in that region. The class had the opportunity to advocate for agriculture and learn more about policy and legislative process at the federal level during a trip to Washington, D.C.
“These graduates’ willingness to adjust and improvise during a trying time showed how much they appreciated this opportunity,” said TCALP Director and MSU School of Human Sciences Director Michael Newman. “Mississippi agriculture will be enhanced by this group and future groups who are committed to its success and growth.”