The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, which offers agricultural financing opportunities through its Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, established an annual awards program in July of 1996. Known as the Governor's Agricultural Excellence Awards, this program recognizes and financially rewards 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters in Nebraska for outstanding performance.
The challenges facing young people looking for a career in agriculture are formidable. To address these challenges, youth Ag organizations, such as the 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters throughout the state, continually look for ways to motivate and prepare young people for a farming or ranching career.
The Governor’s Excellence Awards are presented by NIFA to Nebraska's top-rated 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters. Eligible recipients are the approximately 1,900 4-H Clubs containing almost 26,000 members, and 176 FFA Chapters which containing over 8,000 members. The awards range from $500 to $2,500. This rewards those Clubs and Chapters that most actively implement the mission and strategies of their organizations. Recipients of the awards implement programs that emphasize student development, Club/Chapter development, and community development. Clubs/Chapters are rewarded for providing educational experiences for the entire membership. The Governor’s Agricultural Excellence Award assists in providing quality agricultural education programs, preparing young people for careers in agriculture.
As club members seek agricultural futures of their own, NIFA offers assistance through its Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, which enables beginning farmers/ranchers to obtain lower interest rate loans for the purchase of land, equipment and machinery, and breeding livestock.
The Lyons-Decatur Northeast FFA Chapter has been the recipient of the Governor’s Agricultural Excellence Award three years in a row. In 2005, the award funds were used to purchase an LCD projector for use in the classroom, FFA, and community groups. The projector is utilized every day in the classroom by the instructor and often by the students, who benefit from the access to the technology and demonstrate the ability to diversify their classroom presentations. In 2006, the funds were used to purchase four GrowLabs for use by students in the program. The GrowLabs enabled hands-on learning and research. Both projects have been part of Leadership Skills Events and Career Development Events. The 2007 award funds were used to improve and update technology equipment for student use. Kevin Anderson, the Agricultural Education instructor and FFA Advisor, is a former FFA member from West Point and served as a Nebraska State FFA Officer in 1992 and 1993. Kevin states that the awards have given FFA members opportunities to acquire knowledge, develop leadership skills and earn a more dynamic education. The students are excited to participate in new activities centered around the projects made possible by the NIFA Governor’s Ag Excellence Award Program.
Jason Speck, former FFA member from Imperial, Nebraska, is now guiding students of his own at his “alma mater”. The Imperial FFA Chapter has been the recipient of the Governor’s Agricultural Excellence Award for the last two years . As an Agricultural Education instructor, Jason feels that students in the Imperial FFA program have been given some unique opportunities because of the funds received through NIFA’s awards sponsorship. Award funds have been used to purchase a hand-held ultrasound machine that has been used by students to measure back fat depth and loin muscle in their market animals. Several students have also used the machine to cull some less desirable animals from their herds. A second project of renovating an orchard that was neglected for a long period of time, is now a focus of the chapter for the next several years. Money is being used to upgrade the fence surrounding the orchard and also to purchase new fruit trees and grape vines. The community of Imperial greatly appreciates all the Chapter is doing.
Sara Scholz, a former Logan View FFA Chapter member, and a Nebraska State FFA Officer in 1997 and 1998, is now an Agricultural Advisor for the Southern Valley FFA Chapter in Oxford, Nebraska. Southern Valley FFA, newly-chartered and in only its second year of existence, is a first-time recipient of the Governor’s Excellence Award for 2007. The award is much appreciated by the chapter members and community. The money has been used to purchase a laptop computer for the chapter, as well as for conducting various career exploration activities. Each month, a representative from a different area of the agricultural industry will be speaking to the FFA members about what certain jobs entail, possible employment opportunities, the education and training necessary, as well as a brief overview of their particular company. The chapter plans to tour three different agricultural businesses in the Holdrege and Kearney area in the near future. The laptop is used for writing newspaper articles, organizing chapter pictures, preparing PowerPoint presentations for various agricultural and leadership skills events, and for maintaining student Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) record books. According to Ms. Scholz, the NIFA Governor’s Ag Excellence Award is a valuable component in helping the students build the chapter and find success.