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Degrees, Could They Be More Useful?

When I saw the article on Yahoo last week, ‘College Majors That Are Useless,’ I was reminded of some thoughts I had last May when it first ran on another site. After digging around my laptop a bit, I finally found some notes I had jotted down.

First and foremost, I do not believe that ‘Agricultural Degrees’ are “useless.” However, unlike many, rather than compose a response that points out the value of such a degree, I was struck with the thought, “could agricultural degrees be MORE useful?”

For that matter, could all degrees be more useful?

Personally, I think a quality and broad education, no matter the “degree” associated with it, is only useful if the person is able and willing to apply what they have learned. (But that is another post.)

For the purpose of this post, I am referring to all agriculturally related degrees: animal science, crop science, soil science, agricultural business, horticulture, etc.

Keeping in mind, that agriculture is an ever-changing industry, constantly developing and implementing new technology, becoming more efficient and modifying production practices; are colleges offering and requiring courses for their degree programs that are relevant? Read more…

Teacher, Mentor and Friend…Rembered

Everyone can probably remember that “one” teacher that greatly impacted their life. For me, it was my Kindergarten teacher, Jane Cassidy. She was more than a teacher. She was an educator, a mentor and a friend. I was so fortunate to have Mrs. Cassidy as my first teacher. Because of her care, compassion and energy, I started off my school adventure with a love of the subjects…all of them…art, English, grammar, history, language, math, music, science, writing…I couldn’t get enough. She instilled upon me the importance of learning and developed my appetite to gain knowledge in all forms, throughout my years of schooling.

It is thinking about Mrs. Cassidy that I am reminded of the book by Robert Fulghum,

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

[Source: “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN” by Robert Fulghum.  See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/  ]

Mrs. Cassidy did not stop impacting my life after that first year. I continued to stop in and talk with her through my elementary years and would stop in and say hello at least once a week through high school, at lunch. During my brief time as a teacher, I thought of her as a mentor, remembering her passion for educating, ability to connect with all of the students and stressed the importance of thinking about answers and options to reach understanding.

Yesterday, I learned that my favorite teacher, educator, mentor and friend, Jane Cassidy, had passed away. I will never forget the impact that she had on my life and others. My prayers go out to her family. Mrs. Cassidy…you will never be forgotten.

Results: From Unity, Caring and Sharing

Over 6,000 family farmers and ranchers converged in Atlanta, for the 92nd Annual American Farm Bureau meeting. Each individual represented a unique ingredient of what collectively makes up American agriculture.  Over the course of four days, old acquaintances were reunited, new friendships were forged, valuable information was gained, lessons were learned and the policy to guide Farm Bureau through the next year created through the ingenuity of grassroot family farmers and ranchers. Read more…

The Farm Bill: A Rancher’s Thoughts

The Farm Bill has been a “hot topic” in social media channels. A number of my friends and followers have asked my opinions on the subject, a challenge to do with a limited number of characters available on Twitter and Facebook.

Given the current political climate, we are facing an opportunity to make some major changes in the Farm Bill to make it more effective, efficient and at the same time reduce government spending. On this first Farm Bill post, I hope to touch briefly on each of five of the six components: Food Stamps, Child Nutrition, Commodity Programs, Conservation and Crop Insurance.

This post, while not entirely “complete,” is a first shot at trying to explain some of my thoughts. I look forward to the comments and dialogue that result. Anytime the Farm Bill is discussed, opinions are certain to come out. I only ask that the discourse be professional and I will be sure to post.

Background

In the early 20th century, federal farm programs were developed after an era of extremely low farm income, food scarcity and Dust Bowl conditions of the Depression. This, combined with a national focus to maintain domestically produced food security, prompted federal intervention in the agricultural marketplace.

 The farm programs culminated in The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1949, more commonly known as the “farm bill,” which is the founding legislation on which all subsequent farm bills have been based. The farm bill is generally amended every five years, with the next amendment in 2012.

 The farm bill should respond to changes in agricultural production, consumer demand and trade negotiations. The current 2008 Farm Bill contains 15 titles, including new titles for horticulture and organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance and disaster assistance programs. Interestingly, nearly 75 percent of farm bill funding is directed to nutrition programs such as food stamps and the school lunch program.

New, in the 2008 Farm Bill is an approach to address risk management and permanent disaster assistance rather than ad-hoc funding requests when disasters occur. While long-term solutions are a step in the right direction, this has led to sometimes intense discussions over which direction is the best to take.

 While debate over the effectiveness of new programs continues, there remains strong congressional support for traditional farm program payments such as direct and counter cyclical payments, and lukewarm support for the new average crop revenue program known as ACRE. It is well understood that farm bill politics are regional, rather than partisan.

With the current situation of our nation’s economy, wasteful spending by the federal government is being targeted. This is perhaps an opportune time to take a very close look at the Farm Bill and make some substantial changes that will benefit our countries food security, keep a healthy marketplace and still meet the needs of low-income families.

Food Stamps

  1. I fully support true low-income families receiving assistance for the purchase of milk, meat, fruits and vegetables.
  2. The ability of low-income families to purchase non-food items with the Food Stamp program MUST CEASE!

Child Nutrition

  1. Being able to provide at least one healthy meal to children is essential. As a former teacher I have seen firsthand the need of the students, especially those from low-income homes. Sadly, for many children, lunch at school is the only meal they receive.
  2. Meals provided at schools must be healthy and nutritious and include all of the food groups. Balance is essential.
  3. As a side note, I personally believe that schools that receive government funding for meals should also require that their students take a physical exercise class each year and also a nutrition and health course.

Commodity Programs

  1. Maintain payments to farms growing commodities on the actual acreage that base acreage is calculated for five years, or until trade deals can be modified to “fair” trade from “free” trade. All trade agreements must return to equal standards. Trade partners must be held to same regulatory standards that domestic farmers incur.
  2. Eliminate payments to farms not growing commodities specified on base acreage reports. For example, a farmer with an orchard on acreage listed for a base with rice, should not receive payments.

Crop Insurance

  1. A reliable insurance program should be available for producers to buy into on an annual basis for commodities that do not have insurance available through private firms.
  2. In order for producers to collect on a “loss,” the crop must be inspected and a determination on salvage value made to establish whether to plow under or harvest. The times of plowing under a crop first, then calling for inspection is over.
  3.  Insurance payments should be paid on the difference of revenue from sale subtracted from an average yield for crop based on surrounding historical data at market price, at time of claim.
  4.  Historical data should be on a “local” basis, within a county or within a 100 mile radius. The current regions utilized by Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) cover to large of a geographic area to accurately represent yield and market price averages.
  5. Livestock indemnity programs must continue for operations that incur natural disasters and suffer loss of livestock due to predation. Payments should be based on a local basis as mentioned in #’s 3 and 4 above.
  6. Predation payments that are a result of loss from predators protected by the government should be at full market value, not a percentage.

Conservation

  1. Programs that encourage conservation, water efficiency and erosion control should be continued.
  2. Conservation easements on land that cannot be farmed due to government regulation should continue.
  3. Conservation easements on land that can be farmed should be discontinued.
  4. Programs to improve water efficiency should only be available to producers that are actually irrigating. Producers that have and are utilizing programs to install irrigation on land that has never been irrigated should not be eligible.
  5. Programs to assist producers with erosion sensitive land should be continued. However, once the land has been stabilized and best management practices are in place, payments should stop.
  6. Eligibility of producers to utilize programs need to be based on annual NET income, not GROSS.

Closing Thoughts

Certainly, this post does not cover the entire Farm Bill and its components, however, I tried to hit on the portions that I have seen producers and consumers take advantage of. They are also the areas where I know waste exists that can and should be cut. Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, feedback and criticism. I look forward to the discussion.

Farm American & #Foodthanks

Project Farm American: a mobile agricultural education unit traveling to schools, shopping centers and sporting events that will reach over 62 million people every year. This project is an opportunity to build bridges between rural and urban America. For years, those in agriculture have been ‘searching’ to find a way to reconnect with consumers, particularly those in urban areas. Project Farm American fits that goal in a unique way.

Read more…

An 'Aggie' Experience at an Innovation Summit

This past Friday night and Saturday morning I was fortunate to be invited to attend & speak at the 2010 Innovation Summit, presented by Partners for Growth and Innovation. Thank you very much to Marla Schulman and Tanya Noel for allowing me to take part in this enjoyable experience.

Read more…

An 'Aggie' Experience at an Innovation Summit

This past Friday night and Saturday morning I was fortunate to be invited to attend & speak at the 2010 Innovation Summit, presented by Partners for Growth and Innovation. Thank you very much to Marla Schulman and Tanya Noel for allowing me to take part in this enjoyable experience.

Read more…

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