By Jim Aschwanden

In his 2014-15 State Budget released last week, Gov. Brown proposed the complete elimination of funding for the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant, which supports high quality Agricultural Education standards in our public schools, including Sonoma Valley High School.

This grant program is designed to provide matching funds for districts that commit to meeting state-approved program standards in ag education, including classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience projects and leadership training through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) student organization.

The Agricultural Education Incentive Grant currently supports local ag education programs and FFA activities in more than 300 high schools statewide, with more than 74,000 students enrolled in programs offered in a wide variety of urban, suburban and rural settings. Students enrolled in these programs are representative of California’s social and ethnic diversity, with Hispanic students making up 51 percent of current ag education enrollment, while 35 percent are White.

As executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, I, along with hundreds of our teachers and thousands of our students, am extremely disappointed that Gov. Brown has proposed eliminating ag education funding in California, the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation. These programs are vital if we expect to attract bright, talented, and innovative students to help meet the many challenges facing both agriculture and the state of California over the next several decades. The elimination of support for high quality, rigorous program standards sends a clear message to schools that agriculture and these programs are not important for the future of our state economy. We think this is a terrible mistake.

The California Agricultural Teachers’ Association is a professional education association, representing more than 700 instructors in agricultural education at the Middle School through University levels in California.

• • • Jim Aschwanden is executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, which is headquartered in Elk Grove.