One of the last pieces of legislation to slip through Salem before the doors shut last weekend allocated $1.43 million to Oregon’s Future Farmers of America program, the first time the organization has received state funding in eight years. House Bill 2444 funds teachers working over the summer and eliminates student fees to join the organization.
Supporters of programs like Future Farmers of America have tried to get their hands on more state funding for years. FFA is an agricultural education organization, usually affiliated with local high schools to help those among them seeking hands-on experience in agricultural work. Oregon teachers who participate, like JD Cant, said they often continue mentoring students and working on projects into the summer, but haven’t had adequate funding to do so.
Cant, who is also the co-chair for Advocacy at the Oregon Agricultural Teachers’ Association, said that of the 60 days he worked last summer, he was only paid for 24. The new funding contains $600,000 in grants for these teachers to continue educating rather than take up second jobs when school is out of session.
The bill also fully subsidizes the $20 fee previously required for students to join FFA, still a significant barrier to many students. This change is projected to grow Oregon’s FFA students from 7,000 to potentially more than 12,000.
By Ian MacRonald