Featured Articles

Interpretive Summary: New bill would support ag education at community colleges 

By: Sydney Sheffield

A new bill introduced by Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Todd Young (R-IN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) would fund community college workforce training, education, and research programs in agriculture. 

The Community College Agriculture Advancement Act of 2023 would amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to authorize capacity-building grants for community college agriculture and natural resources programs. This bill will be considered for inclusion in this year’s Farm Bill. 

“Our agricultural workforce is the economic backbone of communities across Minnesota. That’s why we must ensure students and workers are able to access one- and two-year degrees, credentials, and apprenticeships that will position them for success in critical fields like precision agriculture, natural resources management, and agribusiness,” said Senator Klobuchar. “By boosting resources for agriculture programs at community and technical colleges, this bipartisan legislation will help more people access the education and skills they need to keep our agricultural workforce strong.”

The Community College Agriculture Advancement Act would establish a competitive grant program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the nation’s nearly 1,100 community colleges could apply for to fund workforce training, education, research, and outreach programs in agriculture. The goal of the bill is to ensure that all educational institutions have the capacity to meet the needs of future farmers and agriculture service providers.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Create new opportunities for community and technical colleges through Capacity Building Grants for Community College Agriculture Programs 
  • Give priority to institutions that work directly with local agriculture operations to provide experiential training for students 
  • Include farm business management-related subjects such as accounting and finance, so that farmers, ranchers, and others in the industry have the tools to build thriving businesses 
  • Authorize the program at $20,000,000

The bill has the support of many community colleges and agriculture organizations. Dr. Tracy Kruse, Executive Director of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement said, “The members of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) are dedicated to partnering with employers, producers, and industry professionals to advance agricultural education, demonstration, and training throughout the Midwest.  This Farm Bill initiative would support the development of new middle-skills workforce programming that is imperative to meeting our world’s growing food needs and sustaining our land and natural resources for future generations.”

A companion bill is also being introduced in the House by Representatives Trent Kelly (R-MS) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA). Read the bill here