With more than 100,000 new farmers needed over the next few years, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued the young leaders of the National FFA Organization a challenge in 2011. "I would like you to 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 national FFA officer team for 2010-11 took seriously. The students immediately began work- framing key questions, consulting FFA members, engaging leaders in agriculture, compiling input and formulating recommendations.
"Never before had we been invited to submit direct input 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, national FFA President, 2010-11. "We were honored to be invited to be a part of this process."
In December 2011, the 2010-11 national officer team met with Sec. Vilsack to share their recommendations which fell under four main categories. Those are: Getting started in production agriculture; creating vibrant rural communities; who should care about agriculture and why; planning for the future.
Items that were recommended were as follows: 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 of beginner farmers who may not come from a farm; 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; USDA should support efforts to increase the public's knowledge of agricultural literacy; USDA should strengthen the capacity of agricultural education o 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, experience leadership for agricultural education," Kent Schescke, director of strategic partnerships, said. "FFA is prepared to assist in every way possible to this end. 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."
The full response to the secretary's challenge can be found by visiting https://www.ffa.org/documents/learn/120112_secretary_challenge.pdf
Formerly known as Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Organization provides agricultural education to 540,379 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,489 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.