2011-06-01 / Opinion


Budget cuts hurt FFA, 4H

1902, hands-on learning was introduced into Clark County, OH high schools which was the start of the 4-H program. 1928, 33 young farm boys gathered at a livestock show and formed the National FFA Organization. There are 6,500,000 4-H members and 523,309 FFA members across the nation.

According to a Tufts Study conducted in 2006, these members are more likely to contribute to their family and community, less likely to engage in problem behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and bullying, and less likely to show symptoms of depression. The study also showed that more than 88% of children participated in after school activities, often several different activities during the week. The most popular programs involve sports, but sports alone do not provide the positive outcomes we seek for children. We found that for both boys and girls, combining sports and youth development programs such as 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Scouting was one of the most effective ways to promote positive development and to prevent problems. The research also showed 4-H youth who expect to go to college are 1.6 times higher than the odds for comparison youth.

Since I was born, I used to travel from Virginia to Michigan every summer. For what reason? The county 4-H Fair. My sisters and I would help out on my Grandpa Shephard’s dairy farm, train calves, and then exhibit them at the fair. Along the way we learned responsibility, accountability, and leadership skills. 4-H is more then just showing animals and exhibiting crafts. In order to do well, we were required to sell ourselves and our projects through communication. As I continued to go through school I got involved with the Sanilac Career Center and the Biotechnology Program. That is where I was introduced to the National FFA Organization. Everything I learned through the 4-H program tied directly to the FFA. I learned how to be financially responsible for my projects, enhanced my public speaking skills, learned how to properly run a meeting, and cater to changing markets.

In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm released her budget cuts (which with the economy, we all knew something had to be done.) However the 4-H and FFA Community did not expect the cuts she made: combining Michigan State University Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station, and hacking their combined budget in half. For every $1 provided by the state, MAES and MSUE generated another $2.33 for use in Michigan. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Agriculture cut premiums for county and state fairs by $1.47 million as part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s latest budget cuts. These premiums helped to cover costs for the projects.

These cuts have since trickled down the line and are affecting Sanilac County directly. The Michigan State Extension building in Sandusky has seen numerous cuts. To try and save money, the 4-H program in the county has recently seen a consolidation with other counties and now shares resources and agents. The FFA has seen budgeting cuts which has limited the number of contests that can be held and educational trips that can be taken.

Ready for the kicker? With all of these cuts, more and more students want to get involved. 523,309 is the highest number of FFA members ever recorded and that was in 2010. Combined, the 4-H and FFA have nearly 200 years of history in our state and studies have shown that these two organizations produce proactive students who achieve more in school and stay out of trouble. 4-H and FFA is more then just teaching agriculture. These organizations have proven to train successful individuals, including Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Jimmy Carter. Previous Governor John Engler was also an FFA Member. I have been commended on the many things I have achieved in my 20 years of life. None of these accomplishments would have been a possibility if it was not for the 4-H leaders, FFA advisors, and fellow members that I met along the way. But what truly scares me is the fact these opportunities for younger generations are becoming limited thanks to all the budget cuts. One last fact: Agriculture hires 1/3 of the world’s workers. 4-H and FFA teach life-long skills through agriculture.

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