National 4-H Council Trustee Tess Hammock, Forsyth, Georgia, testified before members of Congress this week on the importance of agriculture and engaging young people to help meet food security demands of the future. Hammock reminded committee members that food production must double by 2050 to respond to projected population growth, and recommended engaging more young people in agriculture education and careers to help meet the increased demand.

"I am deeply grateful for the leadership skills I acquired in 4-H and the amazing adults who believed in me, including my county extension agent and state program leaders," said Tess Hammock, National 4-H Council Youth Trustee. "4-H taught me that being a leader begins with confidence. Without mentors and 4-H youth leaders, my life would have been very different," added Hammock.

Hammock emphasized that 4-H'ers are tackling issues that matter most in the areas of science, healthy living and food security.

"Food security is an issue that is important to me and is the reason I am pursuing my undergraduate degree in agricultural communications," said Hammock. "Agriculture touches every person on the planet, every day. It has been part of our story since the beginning of time, and it is vital to our very existence. Agriculture has an important story to tell and I want to be one of the voices telling that story."

Hammock represented 4-H, which is the youth development program of Cooperative Extension and the largest youth development organization in the nation. During her testimony, Hammock discussed the impact that 4-H has had in developing her as a youth leader, sparking her interest in public speaking and preparing her to pursue a career in agricultural communications. Hammock is a Presidential Leadership Scholar at the University of Georgia and a five-time Master Georgia 4-H'er. During her seven-year 4-H career, Hammock served on the 2011-2012 Georgia 4-H State Board of Directors and won state and national honors in public speaking, communications and the arts, and Leadership in Action.

An agricultural communications major at the University of Georgia, Hammock’s testimony was part of a larger hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture on the importance of Cooperative Extension. The purpose of the hearing was to review the 100 years since the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 was signed into law establishing the Cooperative Extension System.

Cooperative Extension and the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities provide a network of professional educators in every county in America to improve their surrounding communities through programs and resources focused on agriculture, home economics, economic development, environmental health and youth development.

"The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established an invaluable partnership through the national Cooperative Extension Service between land-grant colleges conducting research and the farmer who was able to apply that information to improve his farming system, thereby improving lives and leading our nation into an agricultural revolution," said Congressman Austin Scott, (R-GA), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture. "I thank each of our witnesses for providing their valuable testimony today and look forward to further evaluation of the state of the Cooperative Extension Service to ensure a successful model of Cooperative Extension education for many years to come."

Hammock joined fellow National 4-H Council Trustee Delbert Foster, acting vice president, Land-Grant Services, South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina at the hearing.

"As Cooperative Extension continues, in the future, the focus will be to address emerging and critical issues that are impacting families, youth communities and agriculture producers," said Foster. "Cooperative Extension, with the research base at the land-grant universities, is in a unique position to respond to the challenges and issues."

In addition to Foster and Hammock, other witnesses included: Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C; Dr. A. Scott Reed, vice provost, University Outreach and Engagement & director, Oregon State University Extension Service, Corvallis, Oregon; and Dr. L. Washington Lyons, executive administrator, Association of Extension Administrators, North Carolina A&T State University.