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NRCS Recruits Students at 84th Annual Texas FFA Convention

story by Melissa Blair

It was a sea of blue and gold as more than 10,700 students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and business representatives attended the 84th Annual Texas FFA Convention July 10-12 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) booth was a popular stop to learn about internships and career opportunities with the agency.

"The students were genuinely interested in the opportunities with NRCS, more than they were a few years ago when the conference was in Corpus Christi," said Melissa Blair, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist with Zone 3. "The interest was so strong this year, we ran out of internship applications and materials by mid-morning the first day and had to re-stock."

NRCS staff and Earth Team volunteers also provided attendees information on conservation planning as well as visited with attendees about the technical and financial assistance available through the Farm Bill. Many students were excited to learn about opportunities for financial assistance for installing conservation practices under the Beginning Farmer/Rancher program.

"It was surprising that students, teachers, and parents mentioned they had someone who worked for NRCS or had someone who interned with the agency," said Veronica Mata, Earth Team volunteer who is interning during the summer from Texas A&M Kingsville. "Some adults even said they worked with their local NRCS office on conservation planning."

The vocational agriculture teachers were given conservation lesson plans including the new Drinking Water: Protecting the Source which has 20 source water protection lessons for high school agricultural science students at

The lessons are the product of a USDA-NRCS and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partnership with FFA. The lessons are available online to FFA's network of over one million high school agriculture science students and their instructors. The lesson plans cover the water cycle, drinking water basics, the watershed approach, and agricultural conservation practices to protect water quality.

With more than 86,000 members, Texas FFA is one of the largest state memberships within the National FFA Organization. There are 1,015 active Texas FFA chapters.

NRCS will have a booth at the Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association (VATAT) conference in Amarillo on July 30-Aug. 3. In Texas, there are approximately 1,600 agricultural science and technology teachers impacting more than 120,000 students enrolled in agricultural science and technology courses across the state.

NRCS booth

(Left) Taran Dunn, Earth Team volunteer, shares information with teachers at the Texas FFA Convention in Corpus while volunteer/intern, Veronica Mata, organizes materials (far right). Soil Conservation Technician, Rebecca Cunnigham, and Ray Baca, Texas A&M student and first year intern, both from the Nueces County NRCS office also assisted with the NRCS booth.