Armed with the experience of the first class and full schedule, it was possible to better hone in on topics to be covered in Class II. As always, time is a limiting factor. The selection of broad topics and issues to be considered is not taken lightly.
In building the most effective program, and selecting the most pertinent issues, it is well to recognize that about 60% of TALL participants are actively engaged in farming or ranching. Since the remainder represent a wide array of disciplines and jobs tangential to agriculture, it requires extreme care in shaping an agenda that will stretch the horizons of a majority of members. Further, the vast geography of Texas and a tight time-frame are highly important factors in fashioning the most opportune schedule and best location for meetings.
From the list of available topics and issues, the 12 session itinerary for TALL II emerged. It is typical of the agenda for subsequent classes.
Session 1 – “Getting to know you” – introduction, aims and goals, overview of the entire program, improving leadership skills (College Station).
Session 2 – Rural Texas and farm families under stress, opportunities for value-added local industries, laying the necessary groundwork for leaders (Tyler).
Session 3 – From field to consumer – the story of intensive modern agriculture, farm organizations, marketing strategies (Lubbock).
Session 4 – A look at California agriculture – structural problems, urban sprawl, political impacts, processing and marketing a broad range of products (Travel Seminar).
Session 5 – Visit to the Border country, lower Rio Grande vegetable and high-value crops and processing, trip into Mexico to view maquiladora plants, agriculture near Monterrey and Saltillo (Study Seminar).
Session 6 – A look at state government, dialogue with legislators and agency heads on vital issues, visit with Supreme Court Justice, evening panel with prominent state leaders (Austin).
Session 7 – The national scene – trip to Washington, D.C., meetings with USDA officials, Congressmen, Senators, Association leaders, Argentine Embassy visit, the sights of Washington by day and night (Washington Seminar).
Session 8 – Financing modern agriculture, the global scene, agribusiness opportunities, terminal elevator tour, busy seaport activities (Houston).
Session 9 – Livestock industry progress, water and waste problems from intensive agriculture, beef feedlot industry, IBP beef processing plant, Pantex Nuclear Energy site and problems (Joint meeting with Oklahoma Leadership group at Amarillo).
Session 10 – Natural resource use…and abuse, conservation practices and range improvement, wildlife management and endangered species (San Angelo).
Session 11 – A look at Argentine agriculture, impact of political turmoil, inflation, future competition from their crop and livestock production, conserving natural resources, the beauty of Argentina (International Study Seminar).
Session 12 – High-Tech agriculture – today and tomorrow, fault lines in our educational system, social problems and prisons, the international view. GRADUATION! (College Station).
It all adds up to a busy two years – about 55 days of time away from the farm or ranch, business or office! The time required, in addition to travel to and from meetings at the member’s own expense, can be substantial. It is to credit of TALL members that, with few exceptions, they take the TALL experience seriously. Today the sessions have been consolidated into eight sessions. This hasn’t changed the number of places visited or the amount of leadership experience, just the amount of time and expense. And as each new member is approved, a written statement from the employer is requested, verifying that participation is in line with their business schedules and objectives.
But conflicts do occur. An officer in a bank, for example, simply must be on call if a state bank examiner arrives, despite previous schedules. Consistent attendance is a must, however, if the participant is to gain the maximum benefit from a costly experience. During the interview process, much attention is given to probable conflicts.