The agricultural awareness of Montana's elected legislators
Wearley, Milford Louis
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The purpose of this study was to assess the level of agricultural knowledge and perceptions of those elected officials who served in Montana’s 54th legislative session in 1995. Members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate serving in Montana’s 54th legislative session were the population for this study. Data for this study were gathered through a survey mailed to all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate who served in 1995. Of the 150 survey instrument mailed out, 90 usable surveys were sent back for a 60% return rate. Data were collected in three sections: (1) agricultural knowledge true/false statements, (2) agriculture perception statements, and (3) demographic information of legislators. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) and t-tests were used in statistical analysis of the data. Conclusions drawn from the data were (1) 44% of Montana’s elected officials scored higher than 90% on the seven knowledge concept areas of agriculture, 42% scored between 80% and 89%, and 14% scored between 66% and 79%; (2) Montana’s elected officials who served in the legislature, on the average, have positive perceptions of the agriculture industry, with scores varying widely; (3) legislative leaders in Montana have strong positive perceptions about economic situations in production agriculture, animal agriculture, and natural resources/environment issues; (4) based on biotechnology questions and perception statements in the study, about one-fifth of Montana’s legislators did not have a full understanding about biotechnology and its contributions to the future of the agriculture industry; (5) legislators rely upon the newspaper media for a majority of their information about agriculture, which may not fully inform them; (6) legislators perceive education about agriculture in the future as more important than it is today. The data as analyzed indicated a need for better education for the general public about agriculture and agricultural issues. Support and encouragement must be provided to agencies of agricultural education in the future as they strive to maintain or increase public agricultural literacy.