Since 1928, the United States has housed an organization that connects a home life in farming to the classes students take in high school. The Future Farmers of America (FFA) immerses students in programs to learn where our food comes from and to appreciate how important agriculture is to the world.
From 2007 to 2012, the number of farms in the U.S. dropped by 100,000, while the FFA enrolled an additional 60,000 students, opened new chapters and propelled the organization to its highest number of students. 580,000 students receiving agricultural education is a monumental achievement, one that many people did not see coming. In Nebraska, this is particularly difficult as they are seeing the highest number of students interested in agriculture programs ever. In response to the need, the Nebraska Farm Bureau is creating a scholarship program to help schools find more agriculture teachers. The scholarship is directed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s agriculture education program, and will pay $1,200 during a semester of student teaching. There is also a program to pay off loans for current teachers starting at $500 dollars and increasing for each school year. Meanwhile, other states are fighting to keep their programs running.
California has experienced extraordinary difficulties in years past, and they are reaching a peak as the state faces one of the worst droughts in history. Agricultural education is needed more than ever, yet law makers are attempting to cut the Agriculture Education Incentive Grant Program (AEIGP). The AEIGP supports 315 agricultural programs that currently enroll over 75,000 high school students statewide. Free markets and privatization are critical in any growing industry, but high school boosters have struggled in years past to keep up with the growing demand that agriculture places on society. The reason the government places incentives on agriculture is because of how important it is to the continuation of society.
States recognize the importance of agriculture and the benefits that they receive from investing in education. Their return is substantial as those students not only go on to learn about agriculture, but a majority will also take jobs in the agriculture industry and assist states in the production of food. As new techniques are developed, the way food is grown constantly changes. Agricultural education is needed to keep up with those growing changes.