Farm Teaching Hours Bill passes Senate

Wisconsin State Farmer
Carrie Laboski, Extension soils scientist at UW-Madison, leads a field tour at the 2018 Agronomy/Soils Field Day. Currently UW Extension specialists who teach farmers outside of the traditional college setting are not able to count this time toward their teaching time on the university's dashboard. SB 79 would change the law to count these hours.

A bill hat would allow instruction in the field and on farm to count toward university requirements has passed the Senate.

GOP lawmaker Sen. Howard Marklein's Farm Teaching Hours Bill 79 is headed to the State Assembly for consideration.

In current law, UW Extension specialists who teach farmers outside of the traditional college setting are not able to count this time toward their teaching time on the university’s accountability dashboard. SB 79 would change the law to count these hours.

Marklein authored this bill at the request of Wisconsin agriculture groups who indicated that current law is a barrier for Extension Specialists to teach on the farm and in the field.

"The hours Extension Specialists spend teaching our farmers and conveying the most innovative farm practices to our growers should be tracked and recorded similarly to the in-person teaching established by the Board of Regents for UW-Madison and UW-System faculty. This knowledge is invaluable to our $104.8 billion agricultural economy in Wisconsin,” Sen. Marklein said. “I would rather they teach on the farm and make it count where it is needed, than arbitrarily limit them to a traditional classroom setting."

Marklein said the ideas, innovation and advice Extension Specialists provide to Wisconsin's farmers is essential to the health of the state's ag economy.

Howard Marklein

Extension Specialists are University of Wisconsin campus-based faculty and staff who are funded by the Division of Extension at UW-Madison. They provide expertise on a wide range of topics related to agriculture and natural resources.

Marklein said research of Extension staff is highly technical, is reviewed by peer scientists around the world, and is used by farmers in Wisconsin every day.

In addition to conducting research projects, these researchers teach farmers at association sponsored summer and winter meetings; hold on-farm mini clinics, field days, and workshops; and provide other direct instruction to Wisconsin farmers on a daily basis.

“Their value to the agricultural economy as teachers is well-documented, but their work teaching farmers unfortunately, cannot currently be used to satisfy the statutory “teaching hours” reporting and monitoring obligations for UW-Madison and UW-System faculty under current law,” Sen. Marklein said. “This bill makes these important hours count.”