MTI farm program to expand next yearAfter being at death’s door a year ago, the Farm and Ranch Business Management program at Mitchell Technical Institute will, with support from private industry, not only survive but expand in the 2010-2011 school year. “The resources that our instructors provide to individual farm families in helping them achieve success are invaluable. I firmly believe this expansion will be a great asset for the entire state when completed,” said MTI President Greg Von Wald in a news release.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
After being at death’s door a year ago, the Farm and Ranch Business Management program at Mitchell Technical Institute will, with support from private industry, not only survive but expand in the 2010-2011 school year.
“The resources that our instructors provide to individual farm families in helping them achieve success are invaluable. I firmly believe this expansion will be a great asset for the entire state when completed,” said MTI President Greg Von Wald in a news release.
Program instructors Roger DeRouchey and Calvin Pietz, unable to secure about $110,000 in state funding support in 2009, were ready to shut down the program that has served about 90 area farms and ranches. The program helps farmers to develop the business and management skills needed to operate their farms efficiently and cost-effectively.
While the amount of the new support was not disclosed, the money will be enough to not only maintain but expand the program and make it available to more producers.
“This program is the hidden gem of agriculture management in the state,” Von Wald said.
Von Wald said that 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that the average net cash income of participants in the program is 35 percent higher and net cash income per acre is 3 percent higher than that of South Dakota producers not participating in the program.
MTI will partner with Farm Credit Services of America, the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, the South Dakota Wheat Commission, the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council, and the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.
Pietz said the dollar amount of the support will not equal the $110,000 sought from the Legislature in 2009, but it will be enough to hire new ag instructor Lori Christensen, former agriculture teacher at Madison High School. Additional program funding will come from student tuition, grants and anticipated increases in state aid.
With the addition of Christensen, MTI has plans to place the entire farm management curriculum online and enroll 40 to 50 new participants in 2011. If the transition goes as planned, the program will hire additional instructors in northeast South Dakota and western South Dakota as the expansion progresses.
As part of its support, Farm Credit Services of America will help with farm family recruitment and allow the use of its regional offices as classroom space.
Pietz said that until now, all farm management classes were presented by DeRouchey and himself in a traditional classroom. A new online curriculum will make recorded class lectures and other course materials available to participants online.
“Most classes will be accessible from home computers so students will be able to access materials according to their schedules,” Pietz said.
In March, state Rep. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell, who championed funding during the 2009 legislative session to continue the program, expressed disappointment that the state’s $19 billion agriculture industry was unable to muster the support needed for a bill that would have appropriated $110,000.
This week, he was elated at the funding news.
“I think it’s a huge program for South Dakota,” Carson said. “Farmers and ranchers need to know their bottom lines when they go to lending institutions, especially in this tight economic climate. The program will give producers the financial tools they need to be successful.”
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