Like their counterparts in the U.S. construction industry, leaders and producers in U.S. agriculture are telling anyone who will listen that they need more help to get their work done. In a nutshell, there’s a labor shortage in key industries in this booming economy. In addition to agriculture, the number of people who can do the hiring — if the workers were available — is declining as well. That would be the farmers — the independent farmers — whose ranks have been dropping by the thousands for decades (agcensus.usda.gov).
Considering the convergence of challenges in agriculture — I won’t even begin to talk about bugs, diseases, and bad weather — just imagine how critical the people situation might be if we didn’t have a wonderful organization in place to help fill the gaps. I’m thinking here about FFA, with all of its state and two territorial affiliates and 8,568 local chapters.
The organization had humble beginnings, in an era when boys were leaving the farm in droves. Ninety years ago, in 1928, 33 students from 18 states gathered in Kansas City, Mo., to form the Future Farmers of America. An early slogan was: “Learning to do. Doing to learn. Earning to live. Living to serve.” National blue and corn gold became the official FFA colors in 1929. In 1933, FFA adopted the familiar official dress of blue corduroy jackets.
Today, FFA (ffa.org, flaffa.org) is an integral part — some would say the backbone — of agricultural education in schools all across the country. Through the years, millions of ag students have donned the blue jacket and championed the FFA Creed. Current national membership comes to nearly 653,400 students.
In Florida and throughout the land, ag education programs provide a practical and well-round approach to learning through classroom work, hands-on ag career experiences, and FFA, which provides leadership opportunities and tests students’ ag skills. FFA helps well to prepare students for more than 300 careers — from business and education to horticulture and production.
Production is just a fancy word for farming. How many of today’s farmers received an ag education and ag “calling” through FFA? No one knows the exact number, but I’m thinking it’s considerable.
The nation needs farmers. The nation needs a farmer pipeline called FFA.
This column is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.
BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a sta ng agency with ve locations in Polk, Hillsborough, and
DeSoto counties. You can visit his Agritourism/Ranching operation at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher, citrus grower, and former member
of the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges, concerns, and importance of today’s farmer. Together we can
Keep Florida Growing!