County Approves 100% Match Of Agriculture Scholarships

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connie valenzuela
Agricultural Commissioner Connie Valenzuela approached the board asking they consider matching 100% of the 2016 Board of Supervisors Agricultural Benefit Program Scholarship up to $57,100.                                      Photo by: Stella Jimenez

EL CENTRO —Good news for future agricultural college-bound students as the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a 100% match, up to $57,100, for all qualifying scholarships with the 2016 Agricultural Benefit Program Scholarship during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

A variety of local farm organizations compiled scholarship information for the Supervisors Agricultural Benefit Scholarship Match. To qualify for this match, the scholarship must go to an Imperial County student, and the organization’s scholarship criteria must show that it is majoring in agriculture or a closely related field.

“Responses were received from several organizations,” explained Connie Valenzuela, agricultural commissioner. “The written scholarship announcements and criteria for each organization were collected and reviewed to ensure that the scholarships met the requirements for a match from the Agricultural Benefit Scholarship Program.”

According to Valenzuela, in 2015, a 100% match to $45,400 was approved, however $38,000 was distributed because students changed their majors or did not enroll for the semester, so the original scholarship was rescinded along with the match.”

“The reasons for this year’s increase, is that some organizations gave out more money than they did last year, they raised more money and gave more money, and additional organizations presented qualifying scholarships for consideration for Agriculture Benefit matches,” said Valenzuela.

The Board established the Agricultural Benefit Program to mitigate losses in agricultural production, jobs, and our local economy resulting from renewable energy development on county farmland. Agricultural education and scholarships were targeted areas of the funds.

District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley expressed concern regarding timely notifications distributed to schools districts and organizations advising of the scholarship availability.

“Last year it was very short timing getting all of the school districts and organizations to know that we were going to do this,” said Kelly. “It seems like you (Valenzuela) got a lot more interest and participation.”

Valenzuela informed Kelley proper announcements were distributed on March 29, and again on May 17, advising of a deadline to submit forms of June 20.

District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo suggested bringing this item back to the board at a later date to reconsider the awarding process to maximize the number of community members benefiting from this program.