Sean Ellis/Capital Press
BOISE — Idaho lawmakers have been briefed on an impending bill that would require all high school students to complete at least two agriculture education classes to graduate.
Anna Peterson, an Idaho FFA member and self-described “advocate for agriculture,” provided members of the House and Senate agricultural affairs committees with an overview of her proposed legislation, which she plans to introduce this year.
Armed with a large binder containing all the research she has done on the proposal, Peterson, a recent high school graduate, sketched out her plan in broad details.
Asked whether she envisioned the required ag courses being incorporated into already available classes, she said she “would see this as a completely new course with a full emphasis on agriculture.”
Peterson, vice president of the Nampa FFA chapter, said she did not grow up on a farm but fell in love with agriculture through her involvement with FFA and while milking cows on a dairy.
Rattling off facts about agriculture’s importance to Idaho’s economy, Peterson said it’s important that all students have at least a basic appreciation of the state’s farming industry before they graduate.
“We really excel at agriculture” but “students aren’t learning about the jobs and careers that are available in agriculture,” she said. “We learned about math, we learned about literature, but we were never mandated to learn about something that we consume on a daily basis and that’s our agriculture products. There is a lot to agriculture that people don’t know.”
A curriculum that Peterson has developed for her proposed course would include an introduction to food production and it would teach students about animal and plant science and such things as food safety regulations, the difference between conventional and organic production, the science behind genetically modified crops and the different careers available in the agricultural sector.
“Congratulations. You’ve done an excellent job,” Rep. Christy Zito, a Republican farmer from Hammett, told Peterson. “I’m so proud of what you’ve done here.”
Idaho FFA State Secretary Sydney Anderson, who grew up with Peterson and also did not have a farming background, spoke in support of the proposal and told legislators her love of farming was sparked by FFA and agriculture education classes.
“When I was enrolled in an intro to agriculture class, it really opened up so many windows for me,” she said.
“I find it amazing how may students don’t have the respect for Idaho agriculture and agriculture as a whole,” Anderson said. “Our students need to be made aware of the career opportunities that are available to them.”