CRAMER: Land-Grant Agriculture Scholarship Bill Will Train New Farmers, Reduce Unemployment
Click Here to View Video of Congressman Cramer’s Testimony
View Congressman Scott’s Testimony Here
View Congressman Scott’s Opening Prayer Here
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer testified at a House Agriculture Committee hearing today on a bipartisan bill on which he is the lead Republican cosponsor to establish scholarship programs for agriculture education at the historically African-American 1890 Land-Grant universities.
The bill, H.R. 6020, the Funding for Student Scholarships for the 1890 Land-Grant African-American Colleges and Universities Act, was introduced by Congressman David Scott of Georgia. It would award $1 million in federal grants to each of the 19 schools established under the 1890 Land-Grant African-American Colleges and Universities Act for scholarships to African-American students who commit to pursuing careers in agriculture.
While not subject to the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee, Cramer also voiced support at the hearing for a companion bill Scott introduced and he is co-sponsoring. H.R. 6021 urges the Department of Labor to work with businesses, labor unions and contractors to actively recruit, hire and provide on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs in infrastructure-related fields for African-American men between the ages of 18 to 39.
The hearing began with a prayer led by Scott. Cramer testified his interest in this legislation stems from his friendship with Scott, a Democrat from the Atlanta area. “We have a shared mission of seeking pragmatic solutions to fix our nation’s most pressing economic and social crises. In this case, the crisis is the higher-than-average unemployment rate in the African-American community, specifically among young African-American men, which is around 40 percent nationally and can be as high as 50 percent in some areas. These bills provide a targeted two-prong approach to improve America’s employment crisis. It increases the number of young people receiving a good education in career fields in need of labor, such as agriculture. And, it encourages the building trades to invest in the wealth of human capital and potential which currently sits on the sidelines untapped.”
Cramer said the seeds of H.R. 6020 and H.R. 6021 were planted two years ago during debate on the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which he introduced. “Congressman Scott and I worked together on an amendment to address the national crisis of the high unemployment rate among young African-American men through on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs relating to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.”
They proposed an amendment to use existing apprenticeship programs to urge labor unions and contractors to actively recruit and train African-American men between the ages of 18 to 37 for jobs related to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. “Both Congressman Scott and I saw this as a unique opportunity to not only help spur the hiring of underemployed blue-collar American workers who are ready and eager to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, but also as a strategy to help alleviate a social crisis without the use of additional federal resources or mandates.”
Although their amendment was not included in the final Keystone XL Pipeline bill, Cramer said he and Scott have worked together seeking solutions to the national crisis of underemployed blue-collar American workers.
H.R. 6020 also addresses the aging farmer and producer population in the United States. “Looking at the agriculture industry alone, the number of farmers in the United States has declined over 4 percent in recent years, with the median age of an American farmer now being 60 years old,” Cramer said. “These alarming statistics indicate a new strategy is required to better sync our country’s education system with the needs and demands of a 21st Century workforce.”
Cramer said feeding a hungry world requires having smart people in agriculture. “There is no social program more successful than a good education leading to a good-paying job. In North Dakota, I have witnessed economic power being unleashed when the education system and private industry work in tandem to meet the needs of our state.”