Pittsylvania County educator wins Young Farmers Discussion Meet

Dr. Jessica Jones, an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor at Tunstall High School in Pittsylvania County, took top honors Nov. 29 in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Young Farmers Discussion Meet.

The competition was held at the organization’s 2016 Annual Convention in Hot Springs.

First runner-up was William “Bear” Lloyd of Washington County. Other finalists were Brittany Bowman of Shenandoah County and Jacob Gilley of Orange County.

The competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation is expected from each contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and how well they build a consensus. This year’s final-round topic was “American agriculture depends on a foreign-born labor force. How would you draft a national immigration policy?”

“I think we ought to be glad that we have a country where people want to flock to our borders,” Jones said, but she called the current H-2A labor program “a problematic system that’s often very costly to our farmers and our ranchers. We do need to look at the policies that exist and how we could transform them.”

A farmer-friendly foreign worker system would be flexible, Jones said, allowing some workers to come and go as seasonal help and others to remain in the country year-round if needed. It also would offer foreign workers the opportunity to return to the U.S. easily, “since once you get that workforce here, you don’t want them to leave. You’ve already put all your effort into hiring them.”

Jones was awarded a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. She will receive an upgraded model thanks to the Blueridge Farm Center in Buchanan. She will compete on the national level in January at the 2017 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Phoenix.
All four Discussion Meet finalists won $500 from the VFBF.

Jones is a former resident of Nelson County. She won the 2014 VFBF Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture Award and was a national runner-up for the 2015 AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award.
With 126,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry and preserving the Virginia way of life. View more convention news as it becomes available at VaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/ConventionNewsroom.aspx, or get updates via Twitter (@vafbnews).

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-290-1139.

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