Picture Yourself as Secretary of Agriculture

Deadline for unique essay contest extended to May 15.

Published on: Apr 3, 2009

Here's a win-win- win deal. You get to pour out your frustrations about what you think should happen but doesn't happen from USDA, your friends and neighbors get the benefit of your wisdom, and you just might get 'free energy' for your time. All the while, you can enjoy banging those computer keys, telling us what you really think USDA should be doing.

It's the Indiana Prairie Farmer/CountryMark essay contest for licensed drivers 18 years of age and older. The topic is simple: What would you do if you were the Secretary of Agriculture for a month?

The real USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, may not invite you to Washington, D.C., as an apprentice to help him out, but the rewards could still be worth it. CountryMark is offering prizes of 500, 250 and 100 gallons of their premium Dieselex-4 diesel fuel as first, second and third place prizes. That's a lot of energy power that could help you in the field this spring.

Originally, the deadline was April 15. Now it's been extended until May 15. So if you get a few days to ride the tractor, especially if you have GPS and auto-steering, you'll have plenty of time to mold those thoughts into exactly what you want to say. Then all you have to do is find that rainy day that no doubt will come along, park yourself behind your computer, and put your feelings into words.

The idea for the contest grew out of the Youth Essay contest, just concluded. Results for that contest will be unveiled in the May issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. The top three winning essays will also be published in that issue.

The topic seemed too good to not give farmers and farm wives a crack at it, notes Belinda Puetz, communications manager for CountryMark. She previously worked for what's now the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and through her close association with farm families, know that farm family members have lots of great ideas to share about what should and shouldn't happen related to agriculture in Washington, D.C.

Maybe you think the newer, lower limits on payments in the farm program should be backed off. Perhaps you would want to expand the conservation portion of the Farm Bill. Or maybe you would just like your city cousins to understand that a huge share of what falls under USDA's jurisdiction has actually very little to do with agriculture as most Americans think of it. And that's being generous!

Send your completed entries to: Susan Hayhurst, 14477 S. Carlisle Street, Terre Haute, IN 47802. Deadline is postmarked by May 15. Essays can be a maximum of 500 words. Employees and immediate family members of employees of CountryMark are ineligible. Results will be announced in the July issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Farm Progress Companies reserves the right to publish any and all essays without compensation. Decisions of the judges are final.

So have fun imagining yourself as one of the most powerful people in agriculture in the world!