Ag News

Gov. Deal signs FFA expansion bill into law

An idea that originated with two students at Gordon Lee High School was signed into state law on April 27 during the 90th Annual Georgia FFA Convention.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 330 in a ceremony during one of the general sessions at the convention, culminating a process that began in late 2016 with Gordon Lee students Emily Potter and Dalton Green.

“This piece of legislation puts into statute what FFA really has been doing for a very long time,” Deal said. “It puts it in a format where it can’t be tampered with very easily without changing the law.”

The bill sets up a pilot program to expand agricultural education into elementary schools. Currently, the FFA only has chapters at the middle school and high school levels, but SB 330 calls for a minimum of six elementary schools around the state to participate in the pilot program to determine whether and how an elementary agriculture education program could be implemented statewide.

The pilot is to begin with the 2019-2020 school year and will last three years, after which the DOE will report the results to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

Potter, now a UGA student studying agricultural education, noticed a knowledge gap among younger students.

“We put on a farm to fork camp at our local elementary school the two years prior to coming up with the bill,” Potter said. “They knew the animals and plants and vegetables, but didn’t know how to connect that to the farm.”

Potter shared the idea with Green, who had worked on the re-election campaign of state Sen. Jeff Mullis. The two of them presented the idea to Mullis in December 2016 and by the 2017 session of the Georgia Legislature they had a bill introduced. It did not pass that year, but with some modifications it was reintroduced by the Senate Agriculture Committee in 2018.

“I’m really hoping this will open up other opportunities for students,” Green said.

It was clearly a hit. SB 330, titled the Quality Basic Education Act, was sponsored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), with Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), Larry Walker III (R-Perry), Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) and Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) as cosponsors. It passed both the Senate and the House with unanimous votes.

The bill calls for agricultural education programs to be formatted according to the FFA’s three-part model: 1. classroom instruction; 2. Hands-on learning opportunities and 3. Leadership and learning opportunities. The bill tasks the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) to develop curriculum and standards for the agricultural education program with input from ag education teachers. It also requires the Georgia DOE to assign regional ag education coordinators who are certified in agricultural education.