State Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady has appointed Republican State Sen. Dale Fowler of Harrisburg to the newly created Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force, which aims to address the ongoing teacher shortages in agriculture education.

Fowler says in 2016, high schools in Illinois had 85 openings for agriculture teachers, but universities in Illinois graduated only 21 agriculture education majors. Of those, only 14 went on to teach. Fowler noted that agriculture is a vital industry in Illinois, and we have to do what we can to encourage students to go into this field.

The Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force has been charged with studying various aspects of this shortage including the current number of licensed agriculture teachers and the number of graduates from an agriculture education program in recent years. The members have also been asked to come up with recommendations for teacher recruitment and reforming licensure barriers, as well as participation in federal programs aimed at recruitment and retention.

The Task Force will be composed of legislators, current secondary and higher education agriculture educators, as well as various other agricultural stakeholders. A report of the Task Force’s findings is due to the General Assembly by January 1, 2019.