Governments cut funding for agricultural education in schools

AGforce president Georgie Somerset PHOTO: FILE

“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.”

This John F. Kennedy quote often springs to mind whenever I’m asked what good education is about.

And when it comes to agriculture, I can’t think of a better reason to teach the next generation where their food and fibre come from.

Here at AgForce, our School to Industry Partnership Program does exactly that.

Since 2004, thousands of schoolchildren every year have been benefiting from our events and programs – Moo Baa Munch, Kids to Farms, Ag Inspirations, and Career Conversations to name a few – connecting with agriculture and learning about one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

With so much good work under our belt and plenty more to be done, it’s hard to believe why anyone could fail to support us.

But sadly, our governments do not.

Previously the state government funded our secondary school programs, and the federal government funded the primary school program Kids to Farms.

However, in a disappointing display of nonchalance, all funding has now been cut – leaving the future of our learning programs hanging in the balance.

It’s not the first time our politicians have turned their back on ag education.

Who can forget that the state government closed Queensland’s agricultural colleges in 2019, with little thought for industry and the training we desperately need.

With so few pathways available for young people to enter agriculture, and a farming industry crying out for a skilled workforce, stripping us of much-needed funding just doesn’t make sense.

SIPP has long been regarded not only as incredibly successful, but also as a benchmark for school-to-industry engagement.

But without government backing, it’s hard to say what happens next.

Currently, our school programs are being solely funded by AgForce – but they shouldn’t be.

It’s time Australia’s politicians recognised the importance of sharing agriculture’s good news stories with young people, of encouraging children to take an interest in farming, and introducing students to the diversity of a career in agriculture – before it’s too late.