For Runnels County rancher and farmer Chad Halfmann, participating in the Agriculture Lead Class for the past two years has been a blessing.

For Runnels County rancher and farmer Chad Halfmann, participating in the Agriculture Lead Class for the past two years has been a blessing.

Halfmann was among 11 agricultural professionals from across Texas to attend the two-year AgLead XII Program sponsored by the Texas Farm Bureau. He is an eighth generation farmer and rancher and raises register Red Angus and commercial cattle via Halfmann Red Angus located in Runnels County. In addition, Halfmann sells livestock handling equipment, liquid feed, sorghum and corn seed.

He is a graduate of Tarleton State University and also likes aquaponics, saltwater fishing and information technology and system administration.

Other members of the class included Joshua Bell of Yoakum County, Darrell Bowers of Victoria County, Chet Creel of Young County, James O’Brien of Refugio County, Royce O’Neal of Carson County, Scott Savae of Matagorda County, Erik Spain of Lamb County, Josh Swafford of Williamson County, Whit Weems of Erath County and Adam Yablonski of Medina County. 

During the XII class, which started in 2014, Halfmann and the other members of the group started in Waco, and took members across the state and nation including a look at wine country in Sonoma Valley California, the Rio Grande Valley, where they toured the massive acreage of citrus fruits like grapefruits and a subsequent trip with the Department of Public Safety to the border crossing.

“We were at the port where drugs are found at the border crossing,” Halfmann explained. “The cartels are fierce down there and threaten the ranchers.”

Halfmann also saw firsthand, the irrigation of farm land on the border.

“We also toured the Rio Grande Pump Station and saw the huge canal systems that irrigate the farms with water from the Rio Grande River,” he said.

The next trip would take the group to College Station where they stayed on State Representative Kyle Kacal’s (R-College Station) ranch.

The group also toured the Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, toured wind farms and saw them being built. They also toured Texas Tech University and learned new ways to produce new products like fabrics.

The next stop was Washington D.C. in March of 2016.

“We went through the capitol and were on the Senate floor,” Halfmann recalled. “We met Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau.

The group took subsequent trips to Illinois where they saw farmers who had diversified their corn production by distilling vodka and whiskey. They toured the world headquarters of John Deere, and went to Idaho where they visited Antique Archeology of the television show “American Pickers.”

The final trip took the Halfmann and the group to Cuba, where the first stop was Havana where they witnessed the restrictions of communism on farmers and ranchers.

“You cannot own more than 60 acres,” Halfmann said. “It really hurts progression in agriculture.”

The group would see thriving vegetable farms, a lot of plantains and sugar cane.

But the Cuban farmers and ranchers were interested in getting the beef industry going in Cuba again.

“We saw a huge opportunity to export beef,” Halfmann said. “That is not their main source of protein – it’s mostly pork and chicken.”

Overall, Halfmann came away from the last trip with a sense of urgency for the country to be more self-sufficient.

“They have the ambition and desire – we wish they could get over the government hurdles,” Halfmann said.

Texas Farm Bureau’s AgLead program empowers farmers and ranchers with the skills they need to continue the proud legacy of Texas agriculture. In two years, AgLead class members don’t just learn about leadership—they become leaders for the agriculture industry.

“AgLead gives you the tools to be an effective leader—whether on the farm or ranch, in the legislature or anywhere you serve,” said Kacal. “It opens doors farmers and ranchers need to walk through and be comfortable in when they arrive.”

The Texas Farm Burea expects the AgLead members experience agriculture from the farm to the factory and beyond, including visits to some of the nation’s most diversified and innovative agricultural operations, processors, packagers and marketers. But strong agricultural leadership isn’t left out in the field. AgLead members learn the intricacies of agribusiness, as well as the political and regulatory processes that influence their businesses at the state and national levels.

AgLead places young farmers and ranchers face-to-face with prominent decision-makers in Austin and in Washington, D.C. Through a greater understanding of the political process, they gain insight into regulations and politics—andlearn how to influence the outcomes.

The idea from the Texas Farm Bureau is that young farmers and ranchers hold a promising future for Texas agriculture.

A maximum of 12 participants will be selected for the AgLead XIII program. Applicants must be a Texas Farm Bureau member between the ages of 25 and 40 as of Sept. 1, 2016, and preference is given to those who earn a major portion of their income from production agriculture. Prior to submitting an application, interested participants must be approved by their county Farm Bureau board of directors. The completed application, signed by the sponsoring county Farm Bureau president, and three letters of recommendation must be submitted to the state office by Sept. 2, 2016.

Class members are expected to attend each meeting unless an emergency, illness or similar situation arises. Each member must attend seven of the eight sessions to be eligible for the international trip.

A portion of the AgLead experience is funded by joint contributions of $1,250 by each class member and their sponsoring county Farm Bureau. Payments of $625 by each selected applicant and county Farm Bureau are to be made by Jan. 31, 2017 and 2018. All other expenses— including travel, meals, lodging and other associated costs—are either prepaid by Texas Farm Bureau or reimbursed upon submission of expense forms.

Halfmann said the experience was very important, and that he learned a lot from the program.

“I believe a lot of this will shape my experience going into the future - it gives me a worldly perspective agriculturally and also in agriculture in the legislatures on the state and national level,” Halfmann said.