COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri has seen an increase in the number of students interested in agriculture education, even as national agricultural educators warn about a shortage in their field that is expected to grow worse in the next few years.
The shortage has been growing for 10 to 20 years, but several factors have combined to make the problem worse, said Ellen Thompson, the coordinator of Teach Ag, a national campaign launched last year by The National Association of Agricultural Educators.
"We've been really concerned as an organization about filling programs with quality ag teachers," Thompson told The Columbia Daily Tribune last week for a story published Monday. "It's been an issue for the last 10 to 20 years."
The shortage will get worse as a large percentage of agriculture teachers reach retirement age, she said.
"Couple with that the fact businesses and industries are realizing now how valuable ag students are, they're grabbing them up before they go into the teaching profession," she said.
The shortage has not reached the University of Missouri, which has had a steady increase in the number of undergraduates majoring in agricultural education at its College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. This year, about 100 undergraduates are pursuing such degrees, and between 80 and 85 of them plan to teach, department Chairwoman Anna Ball said.