Protecting California’s agriculture education, tradition

June 27, 2014 

I remember growing up in the Central Valley and looking forward to the county fair every summer. Where else could a boy be given a free pass to overindulge on corn dogs and funnel cakes without a disapproving glance from Mom?

And while I now leave the corn dogs and funnel cake tradition to my four children, one of my favorite traditions is to visit the livestock exhibit, where area high school National FFA Organization students proudly showcase their animals.

The dedication and commitment from these students in raising and caring for their animals continue to amaze me. And it amazes me even more that many of these students receive these educational opportunities from their high school agricultural departments and the dedicated teachers who teach well beyond the normal school day.

I was impressed to learn that this year’s Merced County Fair Junior Livestock Auction generated a whopping $578,642 with the sale of 565 animals. This, no doubt, drives home the fact that agricultural education is more than just education, as our economy greatly benefits on a variety of levels.

Agriculture is not only the economic backbone of our state, but also a driving force in innovation and technology. No one is more aware of this than the thousands of teachers and students involved across California.

This is why I fought so hard to ensure millions of dollars of agricultural education funding were not slashed from this year’s budget. The elimination of the $4.1 million Agricultural Education Incentive Grant, as was initially proposed, would have had devastating effects on California’s future.

I wanted to make sure the 74,000 agriculture students enrolled in more than 300 programs across California were rewarded for their commitment to this business and its science, not punished. To circumvent the budget process, I co-authored Assembly Bill 2033, which would have guaranteed funding for the program through legislation.

Though my voice, along with fellow lawmakers’ voices, rang loud and clear in support of retaining grant program funding throughout the budget process, it was your voices that ultimately made the difference.

I received letters from concerned teachers, students and parents. I participated in rallies at the Capitol, attended by thousands of agricultural education supporters. I had the honor of touring many high school agriculture departments across my district. There, I saw firsthand how agriculture teachers and students continue to shape the future of the industry and that they might not have this great opportunity if funding was eliminated.

Your voices were heard, and the funding was restored in the final budget. I am extremely pleased Gov. Jerry Brown recognized your dedication, as well, keeping this very important program in place.

Agriculture is, and always will be, a huge part of our social fabric and heritage, and the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant program serves to preserve and protect a large part of that – our heritage and history.

It drives our region’s economy and creates much-needed jobs. Socially, it provides millions across the globe with essential food and nourishment. Technologically, agriculture could be called the “New Frontier,” creating innovative and efficient ways to continue to feed an ever growing population.

Agriculture is essential to life on so many levels, and it is my privilege to work with all of you to ensure this important funding continues to educate our present agriculture students, as well as future generations.

Cannella of Ceres represents California’s 12th Senate District. Call (209) 726-5495

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