BSC Agribusiness program explained at Rotary

Published 7:08 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

“Plant the Seed,” a new agribusiness program being offered at Bainbridge State College, was the topic at this week’s Rotary meeting.

Presented by Pat Thompson, coordinator and instructor of the new program, Rotarians heard details about the course work as well as explanations of why the college believed it important to offer agriculture education here and now.

Thompson, who recently retired from a long and varied career with John Deere, moved to Bainbridge from Moline, Illinois two years ago. He helped design the curriculum for BSC and now acts as its instructor and recruiter.

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Four programs are offered: Agribusiness Associate Degree program is the study of business and economics of agribusiness. Students analyze the risks and uncertainties of agribusiness production, marketing, natural resources and government involvement.

The Agribusiness diploma program prepares graduates to work in a variety of agribusiness-related fields. Two certificates are also offered: The Agribusiness Policy Specialist Certificate, which helps students understand the relationship between agribusiness and the political system and government involvement; and the Precision Agriculture Specialist Certificate studies the technology and geographic information systems to scientifically manage resources and production.

Although Agriculture was first taught as a degree program in colleges in the 1930’s.

the nearest Ag college to Bainbridge is 90 miles away. While Southwest Georgia agriculture production is tops in the state, there is a need to increase production, especially of two local crops — peanuts and pecans, which have a large demand on the global market.

Other figures cited by Thompson were: the average age of today’s farmer is 57, with 30 percent being age 75 and older. 15 percent of the total workforce is involved in Ag-related business.

In 1940, 40 percent of the population worked on farms and 22 percent of family income was spent on food. In 2015 one farmer can feed 162 people. Two percent of the population works on farms, with only 11 percent of family income being spent on food.

Mechanization and technology occurring since the 1950s have changed farming productivity greatly. In 1940 it took 42 hours of labor to produce a 100 pound bale of cotton. In 1975 it took two to three hours and in 1987, 1.5 to 2 hours. All thanks to the implementation of the six row mechanized cotton picker that also bales on the go.

Modern technology, including the use of drones, makes it possible now to map entire fields and analyze how the crops grow.

Thompson said the future of Agriculture indicates that by the year 2030 global food demand will increase by 35 percent; by 2050 the world population increases from 7 billion to 9 billion.

The United States Agriculture export business will increase and farmers need to learn how to meet the needs through improved production processes and merchandising. We also need to help the rest of the world learn how to meet the demands.

The new BSC program currently has one student enrolled. They are working with such companies as Southern States and Ag Pro to recruit more students.