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Nebraska’s Beacon for Youth in Agriculture

Senator Mike Johanns

During this August work period, I had the privilege to once again visit an incredible facility dedicated to helping our young people start or enhance successful livelihoods in rural communities. Tucked away in the rolling hills of our state's southwest corner is the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA), located in Curtis. The college, one of two in the entire country completely dedicated to agriculture, teaches our youth the best practices for owning farms, ranches, and main street businesses.

Established in 1965, the 72-acre campus continues to use innovative technology and teaching tools to ensure a secure future for tomorrow’s agriculture leaders. I hosted a drought roundtable at the college’s new education center, a state-of-the-art facility equipped with a whole host of new educational tools, including advanced veterinary tech classrooms. Additionally, the vet tech facility recently underwent major renovations, and for the first time NCTA can house all of its animals under one roof, providing a more seamless hands-on experience for students.

Another impressive program underway at NCTA is the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage program. It can be a challenge for young people interested in farming to enter the arena on their own.  Purchasing equipment, land and livestock can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and is out of reach for many young adults who have not inherited these from a friend or relative. That is why I was so impressed by the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage program. The program teaches students how to develop partnerships that will someday allow them to own their own ranch. Just a few years old, close to 100 students have already completed the program and each of them are at various stages of implementation.

As a member of the Veterans Affairs and Agriculture Committees in the Senate, I’m also impressed by NCTA’s Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots program, which is designed to assist military personnel and their families in becoming farmers. Most of our armed forces come from rural areas, and the program helps them build successful lives post-deployment. In addition to recruiting veterans to become actively involved in agriculture, it also helps them utilize existing programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense, as well as state and local programs.

Enrolling approximately 300 students each fall, NCTA is a shining example of the good work being done in Nebraska to keep our young people engaged in agriculture and strengthen the vibrancy of our rural communities. Our small towns in Nebraska have so much to offer, yet it can be difficult for young families just starting out to establish themselves. I am proud of the work being done at NCTA. With agriculture being our state’s top industry, successful agricultural programs for our youth will help ensure we continue to prosper.