Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, recently introduced with his colleagues the Community College Agriculture Advancement Act, a bipartisan bill which would fund community college workforce training, education, and research programs in agriculture.
The legislation will be considered for inclusion in this year’s Farm Bill.
Many community colleges, which often serve first-generation and students of color, already offer training for future farm workers. But community college agricultural programs have been excluded from federal funding opportunities. The Community College Agriculture Advancement Act would correct this, ensuring that community colleges can access federal grants to bolster agricultural programs.
“The number one industry on the Central Coast is agriculture. But currently, the funding we provide to educate and train our next generation of farmers is not reaching one of our most important local educational resources: our community colleges,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Our bipartisan bill puts the training of future farmers first; boosting the resources our community and technical colleges have, and in turn helping more people access the educational and workforce training initiatives that support the backbone industry of our region.”
The bill would amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to allow community colleges to access grant money for agriculture programs. The bill would establish a competitive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant program wherein the nation’s nearly 1,100 community colleges could apply for money to fund workforce training, education, research, and outreach programs in agriculture.
Specifically, a community college that receives a program grant could use the funding to:
- Successfully compete for funds from federal grants and other sources to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities.
- Disseminate information relating to agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities.
- Encourage collaboration involving community colleges, land grant universities, and other higher education institutions.
- Purchase equipment and other infrastructure.
- Advance the professional growth and development of faculty.
- Develop apprenticeships and other work-based learning opportunities.
Carbajal is leading the bill in the House with Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS). Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Todd Young (R-IN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Roger Wicker (R–MIS) are leading the bill in the Senate.
Supporters of the bill include the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement, the Rural Community College Alliance, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), and others.
“The members of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) are dedicated to partnering with employers, producers and industry professionals to advance agricultural education, demonstration and training throughout the Midwest. This Farm Bill initiative would support the development of new middle skills workforce programming that is imperative to meeting our world’s growing food needs and sustaining our land and natural resources for future generations,” said Dr. Tracy Kruse, Executive Director, Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement.
“The Rural Community College Alliance recognizes the importance of the Community College Agriculture Advancement Act of 2023. We offer our support for the bipartisan passing of this Bill to support workforce development in rural communities focused on the agricultural industry and across the country. It is critical that we maintain our strong agricultural communities for the strength of our nation. RCCA urges Congress to work together in passing C2A3 to expand the efforts of our community college partners in growing the agricultural community,” said Dr. Jill Loveless, President/CEO, Rural Community College Alliance.
“The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) supports over 330 community colleges across America serving 3.3 million students. Many of our community colleges in rural areas are adept at infusing entrepreneurial mindset and innovative action to meet workforce needs and to support the startup of small businesses connected to agriculture. We believe that Congress can and should work in a bipartisan manner to pass a new farm bill to meet the challenges faced in rural communities and ensure that critical programs continue to work for farmers, families, and local economies,” said Dr. Rebecca A. Corbin, President & CEO, NACCE.