I was very pleased to see my home state send this letter (posted below) to the National 4-H Headquarters. 4-H alumni from around the country are very concerned about this. Unfortunately, in my conversation yesterday with a public relations specialist from USDA, I was informed that Lisa Hampton, the lady listed as the contact for this conference, would not be taking any calls or answering any questions. How incredibly disappointing it is that those who are leading our national 4-H program are refusing to talk to the volunteer leaders who are the lifeblood of this organization. Without those volunteers, there wouldn’t be a 4-H program. This was true when I was a member myself and it’s the reason I became a volunteer leader. Hopefully more states will continue to share their frustration with this embarrassing situation.
I would like to also mention that I tried to talk to the National 4-H office before I made any mention of this on my blog. I hope they will learn a lesson here that if they had been willing to talk about this right away that this thing may have been handled differently. Instead, they are still refusing to talk about it.
Date: April 6, 2010
To: Lisa Lauxman Director, Youth Development, National CYFAR National 4-H Headquarters
From: Dr. Latif Lighari Associate Dean and Director South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service
Re: South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service Position on HSUS at National 4-H Conference
I am writing to register the strong concern of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service regarding a program offered by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at the 2010 National 4-H Conference on March 23. We are deeply troubled that the HSUS proposal would have been reviewed by the national conference planning committee and found to be acceptable. To consider a group that is known to be controversial and less than supportive of U.S. agriculture is ill-considered.
The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, which administers the South Dakota 4-H program, does not agree with the policies and practices of the Humane Society of the United States as they relate to U.S. agriculture. The South Dakota 4-H program has a long and honored tradition of helping young people understand the role of science and critical thinking when forming their own personal opinions. We understand our responsibility to be vigilant with regard to the messages, however subtle, that children may encounter through programs offered by 4-H.
South Dakota 4-H leadership would not knowingly allow our youth delegation to attend a national program that has not been properly vetted. Had we known that this program would be exclusively presented by HSUS, we would not have encouraged minor 4-H members to attend.
As your colleagues, we request that you give thoughtful consideration to implementing a more rigorous peer review of all future programs. In keeping with our commitment to youth, we ask that the review consider not only the proposed topic to be presented, but also track record and common interests of the presenter and affiliated organization.