USDA Awards $6 million for Farm Bill Education

The USDA finally announced that it would award $6 million for Farm Bill education. This is something that everyone in the ag policy world has been waiting to hear. As suspected a few mid-western schools (Illinois and Missouri) and one southern school (Texas A&M) were selected. Half of the money will go to these schools for them to build online education tools that farmers can use in to help decide on what program they should enroll in, PLC or ARC. The other half of the money will be distributed to state cooperative extension services for outreach efforts. Read more here and here.

USDA FSA also released a timeline for implementation of the Farm Bill. This too has been something we have been waiting on for a while. The basic timeline is as follows: Mid-summer – producers receive letters notifying them of current bases and yields from 09-12 crop years. Late summer – Online decision tools become available. Fall – NAP online tools become available. Winter – Producers make one time decision to enroll in ARC/PLC.

Regarding the online decision tools. I suspect (and recommend) that most folks in Georgia and neighboring states will use the tool available through Texas A&M. As a grad student I saw first hand how these tools are developed and I feel very confident that the tool put out by TAMU will be extremely useful to Georgia cotton farmers.

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100 Years of Extension…and Many More to Come

Recently, The University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and College of Family and Consumer Sciences celebrated 100 years of UGA Extension. The extension system has been a vital part in keeping cotton a viable commodity for Georgia farmers. Throughout these 100 years we have had many challenges and just as many successes. We have all read about how devastated the South was after the Civil War. Cotton was one of the key crops to help rebuilt the South and the extension system did a tremendous job in it’s very early days disseminating information to growers about the best practices for growing cotton. 

One of the greatest early achievements of the extension system was the College on Wheels/Ag Train. The Ag Train actually started before the extension system was formally in place from the 1914 Smith-Lever Act. The College of Wheels/Ag Train was a train that ran across Georgia in the winter months of 1908 and 1911-1917. The purpose of the train was “dissemination of agricultural information to farmers in the state,” and that is exactly what it did. Over the years the train made about 160 stops and reached approximately 300,000 Georgians. Historians have estimated that because of the Ag Train’s programs, Georgia saved about $40 million when the boll weevil hit. And throughout the years following, Georgia would have never been able to eradicate the boll weevil without the knowledge and hard work of the extension service.

One of the greatest challenges now is glyphosate resistant pigweed. The extension service has been at the forefront on researching how to combat this pest and the Georgia Cotton Commission has been vital in providing monetary support for this research. You can visit UGA Weed Science and see the progress made at managing pigweed because of the vital research and information generated and disseminated by the extension system. 

In regards to the monetary support from the Georgia Cotton Commission to UGA Extension programs, this year we approved over $750,000 worth of cotton research. A majority of that goes into extension programs and the rest goes into research programs like breeding, insect resistance, etc. 

3900 Kids Learned About Cotton This Spring

Yes you read the headline correctly, 3900 kids were reached this spring by the Georgia Cotton Commission at various school events. That’s 3900 more kids that now know more about where their cotton cloths come from as well as learn about the various other products that can be made from cottonseed and cottonseed oil. This has been a great experience and the commission looks forward to many more school visits and many more thousands of kids learning about cotton each year.

More school visits…and more to come

This week was spent in and out of several different schools across South GA. On Monday I had the pleasure of presenting the UGA Tifton Campus MVP Student Award to Amanda Miller, a junior ag education major from Hazelhurst. The Cotton Commission has sponsored this award since its inception in 2009.

From Tuesday through Thursday I made presentations to over 700 elementary kids at Colquitt County Ag Awareness Days. The children seemed very surprised to learn that they had probably consumed some cottonseed oil in their potato chips or salad dressings. Most of the teachers also learned about how US paper money is actually 75% cotton.

Friday was spent at West Chatham Elementary School for their Ag Awareness Day/Feed My School for A Week event. The Feed My School for a Week event is sponsored by GDA where a Georgia based food company feeds a school for a week. Springer Mountain Chicken was the vendor for the week. Most of the children had no ag exposure so I felt very confident at the end of the day that they had learned something.

Next week the Cotton Commission will be on hand for an ag day in Bibb County and another in Grady County and that should wrap up the school visits until the fall semester. 

I believe in the future of agriculture…

“I believe in the future of agriculture.” Those are the opening words of the FFA Creed. I’ve heard the creed recited many times by FFA students and every time it makes me more amazed at some of our youth – not only for their passion for agriculture, but in how well verse they are on agricultural issues. This week the Cotton Commission was proud to attend the Georgia FFA Convention. We participated in the FFA Career show in which we spoke to students, parents, and teachers about what the Commission does as well as the importance of cotton to Georgia’s ag industry and economy. We were also glad to offer advice to students who were interested in working in agriculture and agribusiness. The Commission also is a financial supporter of FFA. We have been a long time sponsor of the Fiber and Oil Crop Production SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) Proficiency Award and just recently became and event sponsor for the annual FFA convention. 

Throughout my two days at the convention I conversed with many FFA students. Almost all of them could converse freely on a wide range of current topics such as: immigration, GMOs, water rights, environmental sustainability, climate change, etc. It was very interesting (and comforting) to me that these students had taken the time to research these topics to more than just knowing a few one-liners on each subject; these kids really knew what they were talking about and were passionate about it too. This isn’t something we see everyday, especially if you watch any TV or read the newspaper. The media portrays most of America’s youth as spoiled brats. I think our media should start focusing on the youth in agriculture and maybe the rest of the our country’s youth could be inspired to set high goals and work towards something they are passionate about.