A leader of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) testified in favor of funding for transitioning a longtime agriculture training program to the university, saying the program will provide a much-needed boost to the state’s rural workforce.
Animal and Food Science Professor Steve Kelm, chair of the UWRF Animal and Food Science Department, testified in support of a bill at the state Capitol in Madison before the Committee on Colleges and Universities that would provide $372,980 during the next two years to help offset costs for starting the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) at UW-River Falls.
FISC was started at UW-Madison in 1885 and was taught there until two years ago, when it was discontinued. With the backing of the agriculture industry, UW-River Falls agreed to host the program. Beginning this fall the program will provide training to Wisconsin’s agriculture workforce.
Wisconsin is experiencing a workforce shortage in the agriculture industry, Kelm told the committee. Today’s farms and agriculture businesses need workers trained in modern technologies taught by faculty familiar with those changes.
“UW‐River Falls is well positioned in the UW System to offer the type of world‐class, hands-on, faculty‐supported learning experience that the next generation of farm and ag business owners and operators want and need,” Kelm said. “We are extremely grateful that this legislation has been introduced to provide critical funding to support our operational and instructional costs.”
Wednesday’s hearing marks another step in the process regarding the bipartisan legislation to provide UW-River Falls with FISC-related funding. The bill must still be approved by the Assembly and Senate before UW-River Falls would receive those dollars.
More than a dozen dairy industry and agriculture stakeholders have testified previously in support of the bill. The program will develop better-educated workers who will help fill needs in the agricultural workforce, they said.
The 16-week short course is designed for high school graduates who are interested in dairy farming or working in industries involved with dairy cattle and management. Courses in the program are scheduled to begin Oct. 25 and run through March 15 and students will earn up to 20 credits.
FISC will focus on dairy farming, Kelm said, specifically the fundamentals of managing cows and calves. Nutrition, dairy techniques and record keeping are among other topics that will be taught, he said.
Most courses will be taught at UW-River Falls. Students will also have opportunities to interact with dairy experts at UW-Madison and UW-Platteville.
Enrollment for the first group of FISC students to be at UW-River Falls will be limited to 24 students. These students will live together on campus. For more information, visit https://www.uwrf.edu/academics/fisc.