Lodi’s Top Rated FFA Chapter Programs Gutted By Budget Cuts!

by Free Speech on June 6, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Dear Editor,

Last Wednesday evening, the third Citizens Now community forum was held. The topic was proposed budget impacts on the Lodi School District’s agricultural programs, and Lodi area farming and land preservation. Bill Haupt was moderator.

Michelle Meier, one of two full-time agriculture teachers, presented an overview of the Middle and High School agricultural programs. Sixteen agricultural courses are offered, with enough student demand for twenty courses. Presently 120 students in grades 7-12 are members of Lodi’s FFA, which ranks in the top 5 out of 250 statewide chapters this year. One immediate impact of the proposed State budget is a 50% cut in the summer program teaching contracts for the two Agriculture teachers. Not only does this translate to a loss of 50% of the days in which to teach the summer programs but also necessitates decisions on program cuts. Summer programs involve students in the Lodi Agricultural Fair, the Columbia County Fair, the State Fair, farm breakfasts, and school gardens. Students develop skills useful for jobs in and out of agriculture, perform community service, and earn money, some of which they donate to charity.

Gordon Carncross, a product of the FFA program, farms with 300 dairy cows in West Point. He remembers when 70% of Wisconsin farmers lived on the land that their grandparents farmed but now it is only 8%. Mr. Carncross pointed out that Wisconsin has 13,000 dairy operators, and California, ranked #1 in dairy production, has only 2000, underscoring the current trend away from small farms. He stressed that competition for land was increasing, with pressure for nonfarm development. PACE (Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements) made it possible for a farmer to voluntarily sell his property’s development rights to a local government or charitable organization, thus preventing the property from ever being developed for non-agricultural purposes. The State budget preserves the wording of this program but removes its funding.

Upcoming community forums will address such topics as requirements for Voter ID, removal of maintenance funding for state recreational trails, and community volunteer opportunities to mitigate effects of the budget.

Peter Berthold

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