Sun Prairie, Wis.  Compeer Financial, a Farm Credit cooperative based in the Upper Midwest, has committed $1.9 million in grants and scholarships over the next 5 years through its Agriculture and Rural Initiative to 30 post-secondary colleges.

The shortage of skilled workers is an ongoing challenge for farmers and other agriculture-related businesses. Compeer Financial, an organization whose mission is enriching agriculture and rural America, is serious about addressing the problem and is putting significant financial support behind the effort.

Compeer is partnering with community and technical colleges to bolster vocational agriculture education programs and make them more accessible to young adults. Last week, representatives from Compeer’s Fund for Rural America Board met with 30 post-secondary colleges to announce the first major gift from the Agriculture and Rural Initiative. The $1.9 million in grants and scholarships will go toward educational training for young adults pursuing a future in agricultural-related careers.

The Agriculture and Rural Initiative was created by the Compeer Financial Board of Directors in 2019 to make signature investments in programs and projects that directly address the needs of farmers and others who work in agriculture. Compeer Financial clients often list workforce development among their highest concerns.

“The agriculture industry offers an array of career opportunities, and jobs are waiting for those with the right skills,” said John Monson, chief mission and marketing officer. “We’re excited to work with our partners in higher education to provide opportunities for more young adults in rural communities and enhance training programs to prepare them for a successful future in agriculture.”

Compeer’s investment will be in the form of $1.6 million in grants and $375,000 in scholarships. Technical and community colleges participating in the effort serve 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin making up Compeer’s territory and have an established agriculture education program or pathway. Colleges may use the grants for equipment and technology; student recruitment, outreach, retention and professional development; and teacher training.

Each partner college will also receive two annual $1,250 scholarships to award to students enrolled in the school’s agriculture program or pathway over the next five years. 

In addition to extending financial support, Compeer will connect partner colleges with team members who are alumni or live in the area to serve as resources for teachers, students and advisors. Through these relationships, Compeer can also be a conduit between graduates looking to put their training to work in the agriculture industry with clients who have jobs available.

“Compeer is a strong supporter of high school programs and organizations focused on agricultural education for youth,” said Roger Newell, a trustee of the Fund for Rural America. “This new area of focus will help take those students with a passion for agriculture and prepare them for life-long, rewarding careers.”