February Marks 100th Anniversary of National Agricultural Education System

State Agriculture Commissioner Participates in Anniversary Celebration with New York Future Farmers of America

Governor Cuomo Proposes Record Funding for Agriculture Education in 2017-18 Executive Budget

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball commemorates 100 years of formal agricultural education in New York State in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917.  As a result of this landmark federal legislation, a cohesive national system of career and technical education was developed and continues today.

Commissioner Ball will join the New York Future Farmers of America (NY FFA) for an anniversary celebration tonight in Albany that will promote the value of agricultural education programs to both students and the industry and spotlight New York’s leadership in agricultural education.  On behalf of Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Ball will present a citation during the celebration to commemorate the anniversary. 

“For years, agricultural education programs have encouraged millions of young people to pursue higher education and become strong leaders in their chosen fields.  The Smith-Hughes Act was a major part of strengthening that effort across the country and I am thrilled to be part of the celebration of this historic milestone,” Commissioner Ball said. “Here in New York, we are proud be a national leader when it comes to agriculture education and I am grateful to be part of an administration that recognizes the importance of carrying that legacy forward.”

The Smith-Hughes Act was named for Senator Hoke Smith and Representative Dudley Hughes, both of Georgia, who introduced the legislation in Congress.  It was passed on February 17, 1917 and signed by President Woodrow Wilson on February 23.  In celebration of this historic anniversary, the NY FFA is holding career development workshops this month to help more than 100 students better understand public policy and State government. 

The Smith-Hughes Act paved the way for youth leadership development organizations, such as FFA, whose members gain valuable workforce training and professional management skills that often lead to meaningful careers in agriculture and related fields. New York State has a rich history with the National FFA Organization being one of the oldest chapters in the country.  Currently, Ashley Willits from Copenhagen, NY, is serving as the Eastern Region Vice President for the National FFA.  She is the first female national officer from New York.

Terry Hughes, Career Development Event Coordinator for NY FFA said, “As a product of Agricultural education myself, it is exciting to see that even after 100 years this dynamic school based program continues to prepare young people to fill the growing demand in the ever changing Agriculture, Food, Fiber, and Natural Resources Industry.  Agricultural education is positioned well to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of students by recognizing the critical importance of developing premier leadership through the FFA as an integral part of career success and civic engagement.”

Ashley Willits, National FFA Eastern Region Vice President, said, “New York FFA Association, along with FFA associations across the country and in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, give students opportunities to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to relevant, real world experiences.  With more than 235 careers in agriculture, FFA and agricultural education play an integral part in preparing students to be competitive in a global workforce.”

Record Funding For New York Agricultural Education

Agricultural education has long been a priority in New York with programs that pre-date the Smith-Hughes Act and the oldest urban agriculture program in the U.S.  The State was also one of the first in the country to allow girls to pursue these curriculums and continues to set an example for the rest of the nation with cutting-edge programs that influence more than 10,000 students annually. 

To continue New York’s progressive leadership in this area, Governor Cuomo has proposed a record $1.3 million in his 2017-18 Executive Budget to support 100 new FFA chapters through start-up grants, expand the New York Agriculture in the Classroom program, which is administered by Cornell University, and to double the number of certified agricultural educators from 240 to 480.  The Governor’s plan will enhance opportunities for students and educators and help meet the growing demand for agricultural programs across the State. 

The Governor has also proposed a state-of-the-art test kitchen and food science lab at the New York FFA Oswegatchie Educational Center in the North Country.  This test kitchen will offer instruction in food safety, basic food preparation, and food processing to more than 6,000 annual visitors, including both students and veterans from nearby Fort Drum.  

Kathryn J. Boor, Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, “I appreciate this important partnership commemoration as it recognizes the full spectrum of Cornell’s agricultural education, which begins in the primary schools with the New York Agriculture in the Classroom program, to the Cornell FFA program’s emphasis on developing high school students, and ends with our excellent undergraduate and graduate programs in agricultural and life sciences.  The importance of agricultural education in today’s economy has never been greater, as we see ongoing needs to cultivate the next generation of New York’s farm families, food and business entrepreneurs, and plant and animal scientists to keep feeding a globally increasing population efficiently and sustainably in a changing climate.  I am thrilled that the Governor recognizes the importance of building a reliable pipeline to Taste NY and New York Grown and Certified programs through supporting the future farm and food entrepreneurs in New York State.”

Tina Miner, President of NY Association of Agricultural Educators, said “This is an exciting time for agricultural education in New York State.  So many school districts are seeking to start agricultural education programs and our State leaders have demonstrated that they recognize the power of these programs to develop a strong workforce.  We are thrilled to have this level of support and we look forward to our role in supporting one of New York’s most important industries.” 

Jola Szubielski I 518-457-0752

Lisa Koumjian I 518-457-0752