We’d all be rich if we got a nickel every time someone said agricultural education should be a required course in every high school across America. For one 17-year-old from Idaho, talking about it wasn’t enough. She’s taking the issue straight to the state legislature.
Anna Peterson, a senior at Skyview High School and a member of the Nampa FFA, will be proposing a bill during the 2018 Idaho legislative session that would mandate every high school student to complete at least two agricultural education classes to graduate.
The proposal, part of her senior project, was sparked after conversations with her FFA advisor on how ag should be required in the school district and after attending the Washington Leadership Conference for FFA. Peterson also added a little personal fuel to her fire for drafting the bill after she says she was “hated on” for working at a dairy. She said she often received comments such as “how could you work for an industry that abuses animals and puts hormones and antibiotics in milk?”
“When in all reality that is totally false and these assumptions are being made because people aren’t being taught the truth,” Peterson said.
Now Peterson, who did not grow up on a farm or have any close relatives that were farmers, wants that truth to be told in the classroom.
The bill would require all high school students to take two credits of an “agriscience” course. For the bill, Peterson developed an appropriate curriculum that any school could adopt and includes courses such as: animal science, plant science, an introduction to food production, agriculture economics, and career exploration. It also emphasizes the jobs that are available in the agriculture industry as well as jobs that rely on the agriculture industry.
“Ag is absolutely vital to our state and that needs to be recognized,” Peterson said. “Not only are students lacking the knowledge of where our food comes from, they are lacking the knowledge of our state’s single largest driving industry.”
Drafting the bill wasn’t an easy process for Peterson. She sent an email to all 105 state legislators, explaining what the project was, asking for input and where to go next. After that, she turned to the Idaho FFA Alumni board to get their support and hear their suggestions. Peterson has also talked to agriculture lobbyist as well as different agriculture businesses to help gain their support and input. She even spoke at the Republicans of Canyon County Meeting. Finally, Peterson says she was blessed to be set up with a bill drafter who helped her draft the actual bill.
“My process for this effort has been extremely long,” Peterson said. “Working with Idaho Legislature was a total shot in the dark for me because I had no idea where to begin or who to talk to.”
Now Peterson is hoping to her bill will be presented in January 2018 to the relevant committees.
“If the bill does pass, I am going to be extremely excited. I have worked extremely hard on this project,” Peterson said. “I know it has been something of discussion for many of us that recognize the value of ag and passing this bill would be an incredible accomplishment for everybody.”
However, if it doesn’t pass this year, Peterson, who plans to attend the University of Idaho and double major in agricultural education and agricultural economics next year, says she won’t give up on the bill and will work on another proposal for 2019.
“I believe this bill should be seen in other states because without agriculture the way we have it in our country, we would be living in a third world country,” Peterson said. “Our growing population is incredible and it needs to be known the importance of the farming industry, how it is done, what technology has done for our food production, as well as how many jobs are available.”