Farmers eligible for cash crop

Published 12:30 am Friday, January 13, 2012

The world’s largest seed company, Monsanto, is reaching out to farming communities across the country, not to sell its product, but to give notice that farmers can play a part in winning $10,000 or $25,000 for their local school districts.

Beaufort County is included on the list of 1,295 counties in 39 states that are eligible for a small part of the $2.3 million in grants being awarded by the multinational, agricultural-biotechnology corporation.

The company formed the philanthropic Monsanto Fund, and its grant program, America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, to help boost the flagging U.S. rankings in math and science in comparison to other countries. Of 30 industrialized nations, the United States is ranked 25th in math scores and 21st in science.

“We want to help strengthen local communities and education systems, especially in the areas of science and/or math,” wrote Deborah Patterson, Monsanto Fund president, in an email. “A strong science and math education helps build a foundation for many careers in agriculture, but also will help our students to be more competitive with those in larger cities and other nations.”

For a school district to apply, it first has to be nominated by at least one area farmer. Once a school district in nominated, school administrators may then submit an application for either a $10,000 grant or $25,000 grant to augment a science and/or math educational program.

Those school districts applying for a $10,000 grant compete against others located within the same USDA-appointed crop-reporting district. However, if those districts have fewer than five eligible school districts, they will compete against one another for a single grant. Any school district applying for a $25,000 grant will compete against schools located in the same state or region.

The America’s Grow Rural Education Advisory Council will select which school districts receive the grants. Those awards will be based on merit and need for the funds, but if the two qualities are similar for competing school districts, then the advisory council will look to the local farmers’ participation to be the tie-breaker.

“That’s the number of farmers who nominate that school,” said Lindsey Herzog, assistant account executive for Osborn and Barr, a communications agency hired by Monsanto. “If schools have equal merit and need, then the school with the most community support will get the grant.”

The more farmers who nominate a school district, the more the grant application will be favorably looked upon by the council.

Farmers who meet the requirements to nominate their school districts are 21 years or older, actively engaged in the farming of 250 acres of corn, soybeans and/or cotton (or 40 acres of open-field vegetables, as previously defined) or 10 acres of tomatoes, peppers and/or cucumbers grown in protected culture (glasshouse, nethouse, plastic). Entrants are limited to one nomination per qualified person (regardless of the form of entry). A farmer is “actively engaged” in farming if he or she performs the work, or hires and actively manages others who do so.

A school district may be nominated in one of two ways: by mail or by visiting To nominate by mail, print the applicable forms and send to America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, 914 Spruce St., St. Louis, MO 63102, or call 1-877-267-3332.

If a school district is nominated by a local farmer, the district will be informed and assigned a code for access to the application on the Monsanto Fund website.

On Sept. 30, Monsanto will notify all participating farmers and school districts of the grant awards.

Farmers may nominate a school district in Beaufort County until April 15. Once nominated, those filing applications have until 11:59 p.m. April 30 to submit their grant applications.