PAL program graduates serve agriculture across the country


By Cyndie Shearing

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Partners in Advocacy Leadership program is designed to help agricultural leaders accelerate their engagement capabilities and solidify their role as agricultural advocates. This article is the first in a series describing selected graduates of the program, launched in 2004.

John Boelts
Credit: John Boelts

John Boelts is an Arizona vegetable grower passionate about sharing farming history by appearing in numerous national media interviews. This included representing the nation’s lettuce growers on “The Dr. Oz Show” when an outbreak of E. coli infections was linked to romaine lettuce in 2018. Most recently, Boelts appeared on “PBS NewsHour,” where he discussed agriculture concerns related to the Colorado River and Fox News, where he explained how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting farmers.

Additionally, he regularly engages with legislators and regulators about agriculture and connects with consumers through video farm tours and other types of outreach. He graduated from PAL class 9.

Chris Chinn
Credit: Missouri Department of Agriculture

Chris Chinn is director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, a position she has held since 2017. Her appointment follows more than 16 years of agricultural leadership at the local, state and national levels and her recognition as a pioneer in raising awareness early agricultural advocacy on social media. His accomplishments include creating the MORE strategic initiative to protect and promote Missouri’s agricultural industry. The four pillars of the initiative are Grow MORE, Reach MORE, Connect MORE and Empower MORE, linking to the needs of farmers and consumers in the state.

A PAL Class 5 graduate, Chinn is a fifth-generation farmer who helps manage her family’s 1,600-sow cow-to-finish hog operation, feed mill and small cow-calf herd, in addition to farming corn, soy and hay.

Rose Bradshaw Jeter and her family
Credit: Austin and Austin

Rose Bradshaw Cast is an instructor for the agricultural technology program at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The university’s only two-year associate’s program combines classroom instruction and hands-on experiential learning. Jeter uses concepts she learned through the PAL program in the courses she teaches, including communication skills and contemporary agricultural issues, to help students develop the confidence to become leaders in their field and their community. Jeter invites industry guests to share with students or connect for internships, many of whom she met through the Farm Bureau network. She enjoys volunteering with the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, of which she is president.

Jeter, a PAL 5 graduate, also enjoys helping her husband with the family farm’s agritourism projects.

Matt Lohr
Credit: Commonwealth of Virginia

Matt Lohr is secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for Virginia, a position to which he was appointed in January. In this role, he oversees the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Racing Commission. Prior to this appointment, he served as head of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and served three terms in the Virginia State Legislature. Lohr is also the owner of Lohr Leadership, a motivational and leadership development company specializing in energetic and engaging speeches and workshops. Additionally, he owns and operates a 250-acre farm of beef, poultry, crops and sweet corn. He graduated from PAL Class 1.

Mathew McClanahan

Matthew McClanahan is executive director of the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts, where he focuses on conserving and improving the state’s natural resources through education, advocacy, and implementation of a wide range of programs and initiatives. initiatives. A practicing attorney, he serves the legal needs of individuals and businesses with interests in Tennessee. McClanahan also serves on the executive committee of the TennGreen Land Conservancy and previously served on the board of the Tennessee Tech Ag Foundation. A PAL Class 10 graduate, McClanahan and his family own and operate a registered Polled Hereford beef cattle farm.

Matt Rush, “The best guy, is a Texas-based motivational/lead speaker who has entertained, lectured, and led groups through thousands of leadership workshops over the past 20 years. He is passionate about inspiring people from all walks of life to “do more, be more, and have more” than they ever thought possible.

Matt Rush
1 credit

From 2010 to 2014, he served as CEO of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, where he received accolades for uniting the state’s farming community. Rush graduated from PAL class 4.

The AFBF is accepting applications for PAL class 11 until February 28. Learn more about the program and how to apply at


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