Editors Note: This is the first in a series.
In California, the future of agriculture is facing an epidemic that has the potential to undo years of progress – and were not just talking about new laws and regulations farmers face.
Our state and federal governments are grossly under-educated on the importance of agriculture education. To many, Ag education appears to be school farms, goats, tractors, and welding classes. However, Ag education provides our youth with opportunities for leadership development, personal growth and career success.
In his 2014-15 State Budget released last week, Governor Brown proposed the complete elimination of funding for the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant, which supports high quality Agricultural Education standards in our public schools. This grant program is designed to provide matching funds for districts who commit to meeting state-approved program standards in Ag Education, including classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience projects, and leadership training through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) student organization.
“The Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Agriculture Education Incentive Grant funding is disappointing. In October, I joined 22 of my colleagues on the Rural Caucus in urging the Governor to continue funding for the program because it enhances the education that students receive. As the budget process moves forward, I look forward to engaging with stakeholders on this issue.”
“Ag education is very important to our state and our region. This funding provides opportunities for young people to learn the skills necessary to be farmers. The world relies on California agriculture for its food supply. I will continue to advocate that this program to be funded in the state budget.”
The Agricultural Education Incentive Grant currently supports local Ag Education programs and FFA activities in over 300 high schools statewide, with over 74,000 students enrolled in programs offered in a wide variety of urban, suburban, and rural settings. Students enrolled in these programs are representative of California’s social and ethnic diversity, with Hispanic students making up 51% of current Ag Education enrollment, while 35% are White.
“We are extremely disappointed that Governor Brown has proposed eliminating Ag Education funding in California, the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation” said Jim Aschwanden, Executive Director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association. “These programs are vital if we expect to attract bright, talented, and innovative students to help meet the many challenges facing both agriculture and the state of California over the next several decades. The elimination of support for high quality, rigorous program standards sends a clear message to schools that agriculture and these programs are not important for the future of our state economy. We think this is a terrible mistake.”
Write your state Representatives
Williams Pioneer Review, Agriculture Columnist, Melissa Green developed a template to write your representative regarding this issue. Ag Incentive Grant Letter, and edit in Microsoft Word.