Nearly 300 of the nation’s best and brightest young people were in Washington, D.C., last week to attend the 2023 National 4-H Conference, hosted by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). With the theme of “From Youth Success to the Future’s Best,” 4-H delegates in attendance represented 43 states, two U.S. territories and 57 Land-grant Universities (LGUs).
At the gathering, dubbed “The Secretary’s Conference,” delegates heard from a variety of federal representatives, including remarks from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
NIFA has administered the National 4-H Conference on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., since 1927, and it continues to serve as USDA’s flagship youth development opportunity. Today, the Conference remains true to its original intent to develop the next generation of leaders while continuing to be future focused.
The Conference brings together young people, volunteer leaders, county and state Extension staff, LGU faculty and administrators, as well as state and federal government officials from across the United States and its territories. During the Conference, delegates become familiar with the government and future career opportunities and share their voice with federal agencies and congressional committees.
The youths participated in roundtable sessions with various federal agencies who submitted questions for teams to answer, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the U.S. Department of Defense and others. Topics focused on preventing food loss and waste, college affordability, climate action, economic justice and more. After two days of collaborative preparation, each group traveled to the federal offices to share their findings.
“The roundtable groups are a core component of the 4-H Conference, providing delegates firsthand experience with real government issues,” said Dr. Shannon Horrillo, director of NIFA’s Division of Youth and 4-H. “The youths work collaboratively to lift up solutions to challenges experienced by federal agencies and congressional committees, with the goal of impacting change in America.”
For the first time, the 2023 conference included a Youth Career Fair. More than 20 federal agencies shared resources and information, including a “Cool Federal Jobs” panel discussion, to encourage tomorrow’s workforce and expose 4-H youths to federal employment opportunities. Hosted during National Volunteer Week, delegates also traveled to sites throughout the city to participate in community service projects.
The conference culminated in a visit to the USDA headquarters for the raising of the 4-H flag, a symbol of USDA’s commitment to fostering the next generation of leaders and a recognition of the difference 4-Hers are making in communities across America.