Nebraska lawmakers look at agriculture education

10/5/2012 4:15 PM
By Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers are exploring ways to fold agriculture into lessons in public schools, amid concerns that students aren't learning enough about the state's largest industry.

The Legislature's Education and Agriculture Committees heard testimony Friday from farm and ranch advocates who said a growing number of students know little about the business.

Deanna Karmazin, the state coordinator of the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program, told lawmakers that she visited students this week who believed that eggs came from cows. Karmazin said much of today's classroom material about farmers and farm animals is outdated, fragmented and condescending.

"Students and teachers owe it to themselves and their livelihood to know how food gets to their plate," Karmazin said. "They need to understand and recognize the science, engineering, economics, and principles of intensive labor that goes into the production of that food."

The hearing was called to address an interim study introduced by Sen. Kate Sullivan, of Cedar Rapids. Sullivan, a banker and family farm owner, introduced a proposal last year to create an Agriculture Literacy Task Force. The bill stalled in committee and faced opposition from the Nebraska Department of Education, which supported the sentiment but said existing task forces could just as easily address the problem.

Karmazin said her group is already working with the state to include agriculture in social studies, science and economics coursework. She said other groups, such as Future Farmers of America, focus on students who have already expressed an interest in agriculture careers.

Nebraska's population has become increasingly urban in recent years as Omaha, Lincoln and Bellevue continue to grow and the numbers in rural counties dwindle. The Legislature lost one of its rural seats last year when political boundaries were redrawn to adjust for the shift.

Students "will need to be literate about the very things that will ensure their future," Karmazin said. "We cannot afford to slip to the point these people do not have a grasp of what makes up our food, fiber and fuel systems."

Are egg-laying hens being treated well enough without increasing their cage size?

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