C2A3 Signs National Memorandum of Understanding with Rural Development to Strengthen Rural Workforce

Representatives of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture (C2A3) and USDA Rural Development formally sign a memorandum of understanding to assist students across the Midwest who will be offered resources and skill development that will help them advance in careers in agriculture and rural economic development. Pictured (front row, from left) are Sheila Quirk Bailey, Illinois Central College; Tracy Kruse, Northeast Community College and executive director of C2A3; Jacki Ponti-Lazaruk, chief innovation officer, USDA Rural Development and Greg Batson, economic development specialist, USDA Rural Development. In the back row (from left) are Herb Reidel, Northeast Iowa Community College; Jeannie Worden, Northcentral Technical College (WI); Jo Blondin, Clark State College (OH); and Leah Barrett, Northeast Community College (NE).

August 4, 2023

PEORIA, Ill. – The Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) is partnering with USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) Rural Development to strengthen the nation’s rural workforce.

Representatives of C2A3 and USDA Rural Development held a ceremony recently in Peoria, Ill., to formally sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assist students across the Midwest who will be offered resources and skill development that will help them advance in careers in agriculture and rural economic development. The partnership will also help to ensure rural communities across the country have the leaders and workforce they need to thrive.

The MOU was signed by Roger Glendenning, acting undersecretary of USDA, Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk, innovation officer with USDA, and Tracy Kruse, executive director of C2A3. Kruse also serves as vice president of development and external affairs at Northeast Community College.

“Our community college members primarily serve rural America. Our mission and goals align directly with the goals of USDA Rural Development,” Kruse said. “Through regular communication and intentional efforts to share resources and work together on common goals, we can do much more to strengthen rural vitality and develop our workforce in rural places.”

As part of the MOU, USDA Rural Development will coordinate with the C2A3 member institutions to help students develop leadership and job skills through agency internships and networking opportunities

  • USDA Rural Development staff will also:
  • Share public data, program resources, webinars and information that can help students bolster their schoolwork and succeed in their careers.
  • Participate in guest lectures at community colleges to help students learn about the ways USDA Rural Development’s programs, initiatives, and resources, help people in rural America thrive.
  • Encourage students to join the Rural Workforce Innovation Network(RWIN) to help expand their networking opportunities in their respective industries.
  • Connect colleges with staff in state and local Rural Development offices.

“At Northeast Community College, we are interested in student success and developing opportunities for our students to strengthen their leadership and career readiness skills,” said Leah Barrett, president and C2A3 board member. “Partnerships like these open up doors to new experiences and potential careers and encourage them to develop and utilize their skills in rural America.”

The signing of the MOU comes just weeks after U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, joined with four additional Senate colleagues to introduce the Community College Agriculture Advancement Act (S. 1740). Its companion act in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3425) is sponsored by Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) and Salud Carbajal (D-Cal.) and is co-signed by 17 members. The bipartisan bill would authorize funding for community college workforce training, education, and applied research programs in agriculture. It would also encourage the development of 2+2+2 programs that support pathways in agriculture from high school to community college to a four-year college or university.

Some community colleges already offer training for the agricultural industry workforce, but the need for highly trained technicians outstrips the availability of programming across the country. The Community College Agriculture Advancement Act would allow community colleges to access federal grants to bolster agricultural programs, elevate the important role of technicians in agriculture and encourage more underserved and under-resourced students to get into the field.

Representatives of C2A3 also have an MOU with another USDA agency. In 2016, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and C2A3 signed its first agreement to develop a cooperative framework to enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.

For more information on C2A3, visit the organization’s website at agalliance.net.

Original Article by Northeast Community College