By David Howell
COFFEEVILLE – Water Valley attorney Daniel Martin was one of three runners-up in the national Farm Bureau Discussion meeting held at the national convention in Atlanta on Jan. 9 and 10.
His finish marked the first time in more than two decades that a Mississippi contestant advanced to the final round in this national competition. It also earned him a $6,000 savings bond and a STIHL Farm Boss chainsaw, both courtesy of STIHL.
The discussion meet simulates a 30-minute committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Contestants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic. The judges are looking for the contestant that offers constructive criticism, cooperation, and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions.
Martin was one of 37 contestants who earned a seat at the national competition. He was able to score enough points in the first two rounds, known as “round robins” to advance to a third round, known as the “sweet 16” round.
“Everybody got to compete in the first two rounds,”Martin explained.
The final 16 contestants then competed in the “Sweet Sixteen” round. Martin again advanced through this round after scoring the highest among the four competitors in his group.
The top four winners then advanced to the “final four,” competing for the national honor.
“The competition was tough in the final round,” Martin said. In addition to Martin, the other finalists included a commodities broker from New York, a cattle rancher from Iowa and an agricultural teacher from South Carolina.
The question for the final round was a doozy:
Given recent challenges, such as volatile food prices and limited world food supplies, do American consumers adequately appreciate the importance of US-produced food? Will American consumers consider American agriculture important to our security in the future?
To compete at the national level, Martin first won the Mississippi Farm Bureau discussion meet. He is the third person from Yalo-busha County in recent years to win the state competition. Most recently, Chris Wilkerson was a state winner in 2005 and Derrick Surrette won in 2003.
The experience will have a lasting impression on Martin.
“No matter where these people were from, no matter what accent they had, there was the same spirit that I have experienced locally with farmers and ranchers,” Martin said.
“They were welcome and open, and have a friendly spirit.”