Central Valley ag education supporters to have their say in Sacramento

03/13/2014 6:02 PM

03/13/2014 7:04 PM

Supporters of a state grant program for agricultural education will make their case for keeping it at a Sacramento hearing Tuesday.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hear testimony on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to end the program and shift the money – $4.1 million per year – into general education spending.

Trent Hager, chief of staff for chairwoman Cathleeen Galgiani, D-Stockton, said the committee wants to hear from people who would be affected by the proposal. They include two Atwater High School representatives, Principal Alan Peterson and ag teacher Dave Gossman; and Julian Parra, an ag student from Galt.

Supporters say the grants enhance the instruction provided by high school ag instructors, who double as advisers to FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The hearing will come a day before FFA members rally for the program as part of Ag Day at the Capitol.

The proposal, part of the initial 2014-15 budget released in January, is part of Brown’s effort to greatly increase the amount of money school districts can spend at their discretion. It has become a rallying cry for FFA, which has about 74,000 members in California.

The committee also will talk generally about the University of California Cooperative Extension, which does research and education on farming, gardening and nutrition.

The five-member committee has two other lawmakers who represent areas in and near Stanislaus County – vice chairman Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte.

Other invited speakers:

• Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources
• Jim Aschwanden, executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers Association
• Gary Barton, an Escalon-area walnut grower and processor
• Donald Bransford, an almond, prune and rice grower in Colusa County
• Brent Holtz, UC extension director in San Joaquin County
• Morgan Doran, extension director in Solano County
• Natasha Collins, fiscal and policy at the Legislative Analyst’s Office
• Kimberly Leahy, who specializes in education programs at the California Department of Finance.
• Russell Weikle, director of the Career and College Transition Division at the California Department of Education

The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 112 at the Capitol. The committee hopes to have it streamed lived at www.calchannel.com, but Hager said that was not confirmed as of Thursday.

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