A state lawmaker worries that Nebraskans are losing touch with the state’s largest industry: agriculture.
Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids has told members of two legislative committees she still backs formation of an Agriculture Literacy Task Force.
“We are an agricultural state. We cannot dispute that. But, we also know that agriculture on many levels is misunderstood,” Sullivan, a farmer and banker, said during testimony at a hearing at the Capitol. “So, consequently, it’s often put on the defensive or overlooked and undervalued with respect to its importance in society.”
Sullivan’s proposal failed in the last session after the Nebraska Department of Education suggested an existing task force could tackle the problem. She sponsored LR 511, which called for an interim study of the issue.
The legislature’s Education and Agriculture Committees heard from agricultural leaders worried that a growing number of students know little about farming.
Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator Deanna Karmazin told state legislators agricultural education can be incorporated in many subjects.
“We don’t want an entire curriculum reform. All we want them to do is use agriculture as that vehicle to teach geography, history, economics, science and math to name a few,” Karmazin explained. “Use agriculture examples as they teach those course standards.”
Karmazin characterized some of the material dealing with agriculture now used in the classroom as outdated, fragmented and condescending.
A shift in population has added urgency to the issue, according to supporters. Rural Nebraska has been losing population as the urban centers of Omaha and Lincoln gain. In wake of the last Census count, outstate Nebraska lost a rural legislative seat to the urban areas.
Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this article.