National enrollment in ag and related science majors at two-year institutions grew 41% in Fall 2021, according to estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. To provide more opportunities for students enrolled in these majors, six U.S. Senators last week introduced the Community College Ag Advancement Act.
The bill would dedicate $20 million of farm bill funding to community college training, education and research programs that, according to a press release, are generally excluded from federal funding.
“Through their research into cutting-edge precision ag technologies or workforce development programs, community colleges are a vital part of Nebraska’s ag economy,” said Sen. Deb Fischer. (R-Neb.) “Our legislation would ensure community colleges get the federal resources they deserve to expand their successful educational and workforce training initiatives in the community.”
If the bill were to pass, America’s 1,100 community colleges would be eligible to apply for a grant through the USDA. The funds could be used to:
• Carryout educational, research and outreach activities
• Create and spread information about ag and renewable resources
• Purchase ag equipment
• Advance faculty professional development
• Create apprenticeship programs and other work-based opportunities
“Programs in precision agriculture and cybersecurity are just two areas that we have recently launched here at Northeast. Federal grant programs can provide much needed funding to support initiatives like these,” said Leah Barrett, Northeast Community College president.
Following the bill’s introduction, Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.) announced on Tuesday that the farm bill will receive no new funding. This means any funding for programs like the Community College Ag Advancement Act would need to be redirected from a previously funded program.