Nevada Union and Bear River ag mechanics students competed in the year’s first Agriculture Mechanics competition at Pierce High School in Arbuckle on Feb. 1. Both Nevada Union and Bear River FFAs did very well in competition.
In all, 36 teams and 125 students competed in the contest. Bear River FFA won the contest with three students in the top 10: Sam Stone took fourth, Alex Nelson was fifth and Garet Marsh was seventh. Additionally, Bear River’s second team placed fifth overall. Nevada Union FFA had an equally impressive contest, finishing third overall as a team, with Cody Butterfield placing second, Wyatt Price eighth and Chandler Phillps 10th.
Nevada County FFA chapters accounted for three out of the top five teams and six out of the top 10 individual players.
“The ag mechanics competition is one of the most complex and competitive contests in the FFA career development event program,” Nevada Union Agriculture teacher Luke Browning said. “It is difficult for teams to place in the top five. Most students that reach this level have been studying and competing for three or four years. To have three teams from our county perform so well is very impressive and a big accomplishment.”
However, the success of the day was overshadowed by proposed cuts to the local agriculture departments. In his 2014-15 state budget released in early January, Gov. Brown proposed the complete elimination of funding for the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant, which supports agricultural education standards at Bear River and Nevada Union. This grant program is designed to provide matching funds for districts who commit to meeting state-approved program standards in ag education, including classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience projects and leadership training through the Future Farmers of America (FFA) student organization.
“The Agricultural Education Incentive Grant currently supports both local ag education programs and FFA activities, with over 600 students enrolled in programs offered at BRHS and NU” said Tim Reid, Bear River agriculture teacher.
According to Reid, without the funding from this grant, the agriculture programs would not be able to continue to provide the same opportunities, such as ag mechanics competitions. There are also other student-driven, hands on leadership and career-development events that Nevada County FFA chapters are known for being contenders in.
“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Brown has proposed eliminating ag education funding in California, the leading agricultural producing state in the nation” said Jim Aschwanden, executive director of the California Agriculture Teachers’ Association.
“These programs are vital if we expect to attract bright, talented and innovative students to help meet the many challenges facing both agriculture and the state of California over the next several decades.
“The elimination of support for high quality, rigorous program standards sends a clear message to schools that agriculture and these programs are not important for the future of our state economy. We think this is a terrible mistake.”