Agriculture Awareness and Appreciation Award

Robert J. Soileau
Director, Ag Leadership
LSU AgCenter

Soileau, R.J.*1,
1 Director, Ag Leadership, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803

Since 1988, the LSU AgCenter Agricultural Leadership Development Program has successfully prepared adult men and women in production agriculture and agribusiness for the leadership challenges of the future.

These men and women represent a diverse agriculture that has a gross farm value of $6.33 billion. The top Louisiana commodities include forestry, poultry, sugarcane, rice, beef cattle, corn and soybeans.

Through in-state and travel seminars our curriculum is designed to enhance their skills and awareness. We emphasize communications training throughout the program so our graduates become better spokespeople for agriculture.

The culmination of the program is the international trip. Class XVI traveled to Japan and Thailand in January 2020. We invite two members of the public relations staff for Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation (LFBF) to conduct media coverage for our trip. Both of them are graduates of the program.

This Week in Louisiana Agriculture (TWILA) is a weekly television show produced by LFBF. An entire show in February 2020 was dedicated to our 12-day trip. They also used Facebook and a travel blog to constantly promote our program. Our class participated in all aspects of the promotion during the trip.

This coverage promotes the importance of agriculture for our state and country. Our participants are able to compare production practices and get a better understanding of trade issues impacting our country. It broadens their world view of agriculture which allows them to communicate this to the public and their peers.

The reach of this effort was:

  • 1,000 combined YouTube views.
  • The blog reached 1,500 visits for the year.
  • 6,500 combined Facebook views.
  • TWILA airs on 20 television/cable systems, and on RFD-TV. It averages 125,000 weekly viewers according to Nielsen surveys.

The post-evaluation with Class XVI showed the value of their communications training. “We strengthened our communications skills so we can better relate and promote to those outside of our industry.” In addition, it made them more aware of their place in our agricultural global economy. “Truly seeing the global perspective and how interconnected countries and commodities are today.”