High school senior proposes bill to require ag education classes

Anna Peterson, a high school senior in Nampa, Idaho, holds a notebook containing the research she has done on a proposal to require high school students to complete at least two agriculture education classes. She will propose a bill that mandates this during the 2018 Idaho legislative session, which begins in January.

NAMPA, Idaho — A high school senior will propose a bill during the 2018 Idaho legislative session requiring high school students to complete at least two agriculture education classes.

If it passes, that means every student in the state would have to take at least two semesters of classes that teach them about agriculture.

In other words, they would emerge from those classes with at least a basic understanding of the farming and ranching industry and where their food comes from, said Anna Peterson, 17, an FFA member at Skyview High School in Nampa who is proposing the legislation.

Peterson’s proposal was her senior project but she told Idaho FFA Alumni Association members last week during their regular meeting that she is in it for the long haul, even if it takes more than one try to get the bill passed.

“I want to see this effort all the way through,” Peterson told Capital Press. “I think it’s important and I’m passionate about it. I just want to make sure students know where their food is coming from.”

Peterson said she wants the classes to cover animal and plant science as well as agriculture’s importance to Idaho’s economy and teach students about some of the many career opportunities involved with the industry.

Peterson, who will major in ag economics and ag education at the University of Idaho, was born in southwestern Idaho and was not raised on a farm.

However, she fell in love with agriculture after working on a dairy as a milker and learning more about the farming industry.

“I was born with a green heart,” said Peterson, who has sent emails to all 105 of the state’s legislators informing them of her plan.

Idaho FFA Alumni Association Past President Sid Freeman, a farmer, said the group was impressed with Peterson’s proposal and is discussing helping to cover some of the expenses that will be involved with her effort.

“Agriculture education is not just for farm kids; it is for the majority of other kids who are not from the farm,” he said. “It may even draw their attention to career opportunities in agriculture as well.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, said it might be a tough sell to require all students to have two ag credits to graduate but he likes the thinking behind Peterson’s proposal.

“It’s an impressive idea,” he said. “I think what she’s doing has the potential to be extremely useful. The question is, what’s the best way to do it?”

Peterson said the biggest question that popped up during her research was, “What do you do about the schools that don’t have ag programs?”

She said there are alternatives, such as certifying teachers to also qualify them as ag instructors, or online courses.

“There are a lot of (options) and it’s just figuring out which one is best,” she said.

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