Md. legislators asking for ag curriculum in each county

Associate Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 15, 2016) — In three years, at least one high school in every county could have its own agricultural science curriculum if two state legislators have their way.
Del. Mike McKay, R-Allegany and Washington, and Sen. Gail Bates, R-Carroll and Howard, are sponsoring legislation that would require at least one high school or vocational school in every county to have an agricultural science curriculum in place by the 2018-19 school year.
“We often hear battles between farmers and non-farmers,” Bates said during a Feb. 24 hearing for the bill before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “I believe the more we can educate people about the true science of agriculture that we will begin to lose some that them-versus-us kind of thing.”
Most counties already meet the bill’s requirements, according to analysis by the General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services. If the bill was passed, only Somerset, Allegany and Howard counties would need to create agricultural programs. Allegany recently shut down its agricultural program due to a lack of enrollment.
“We are, on average, four generations removed from the farm, and the knowledge of our communities about what agriculture does is gone and is developing more and more neighbor issues every year,” said Kathy Johnson-Zimmerman, agricultural development manager at the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
The state board of education has addressed the subject before. In 2014, the state created a task force to study the incorporation of agriculture education, including sustainable agriculture and other issues, into existing school curricula. The group’s final report, released in May, recommended the following:
• Establish a free, online, interactive venue for students entitled Maryland Agriculture Academy, which includes multimedia resources and activities;
• Provide a curriculum and professional learning resource system for educators on the integrated teaching of agriculture, aligned to Maryland content standards;
• Expand the pipeline to agriculture careers and education through elementary and middle school programs; and
• Expand the state’s rigorous high school agricultural programs of study that lead to postsecondary credit and industry certification as well as increased readiness for entry into college and careers.
The bill passed the Senate on March 3 and has received a first reading in the House Ways and Means Committee.