So when it was revealed last week that National 4-H inexplicably invited the Humane Society of the United States to present at their National 4-H Conference in late March, a lot of us in agriculture hoped that the organizers were either a) duped, or b) confused. But according to the statement they released, conference organizers were clear about who they were allowing to speak. Unfortunately, they knew what HSUS stood for yet gave them a platform in front of the best and brightest 4-Hers because their workshop topic fit within the theme of the conference. I’m tempted toward sarcasm here but am resisting it mightily.
In the course of posting this information last week on my Facebook page, folks with the connections to do something about picked up on it. The result is a press release from Iowa Congressman Steve King’s office, condemning National 4-H for their ties with HSUS. And there may well be more to come.
I’m not sure what the real problem is within National 4-H. Regardless, their actions have gained them notice at the top of the federal government, with King – a prominent Republican on the House Ag Committee – now taking notice. I’ve been informed that plenty of Congressional aides, many with ag backgrounds who were themselves long-time 4-H members, are alarmed about 4-H’s decision and are looking for ways to do something about it. If you’ve ever stepped in a congressional office, you have an idea of the power these aides wield. Consider Congressman King’s release the first salvo.
There’s a lot of righteous indignation stirring about right now among 4-H supporters, but it’s important to remember that this was a decision made by the top tiers of the organization. I’m a 4-H alumni and I find National 4-H’s decision utterly disappointing. But at its heart, 4-H is still an organization that teaches responsibility, service, respect and in many ways, agriculture, to youth all over the country. As we look for ways to appropriately respond to National 4-H’s actions, let’s not forget how deserving our local clubs, leaders, members and volunteers are of your support.
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