FFA shares 2012 farm bill ideas with USDA

With more than 100,000 new farmers needed during the next few years, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack challenged the National FFA organization’s young leaders.

“I would like you, with your fellow students and the adult leadership of the organization, to develop a series of recommendations around the upcoming farm bill that will encourage more young people to pursue careers in farming,” Vilsack said.

It was a challenge that the 2010-2011 national FFA officer team took seriously. The students immediately got to work – framing key questions, consulting with FFA members, engaging leaders in agriculture, compiling input and formulating recommendations.

“Never before had we been invited to submit input directly to the Secretary of Agriculture that could enhance the ability of agricultural education and FFA to help students succeed and strengthen American agriculture,” said Riley Pagett, 2010-2011 national FFA president. “We were honored to be invited to be a part of this process.”

In December 2011, the 2010-2011 national officer team met with Vilsack to share their recommendations, which fell under four main categories. Those are:

• Getting started in production agriculture: USDA and other agencies should encourage and assist beginning farmers to start or continue in production agriculture; USDA should help transition farms from older, related and non-related farmers to younger or beginner farmers who may not come from a farm.

• Creating vibrant rural communities: USDA should help keep young people in rural communities and make rural communities an even more important part of our nation’s economy and society.

• Who should care about agriculture and why: USDA should support efforts to increase the public’s knowledge of agricultural literacy.

• Planning for the future: USDA should strengthen the capacity of agricultural education to produce more students that pursue production agriculture and other agriculturally-related careers and the USDA should provide authority, responsibility and support for school-based agricultural education and FFA.

“We believe it is in the best interest of the nation for the Department of Agriculture to affirm its commitment to develop strong, experienced leadership for agricultural education,” Kent Schescke, director of strategic partnerships, said.

“FFA is prepared to assist in every way possible. We believe, with the significant challenges facing American and global systems of agriculture, an investment must be made and we believe the farm bill provides the department an opportunity to demonstrate it believes in the future of agriculture.”

– National FFA organization