2
A Land Grant System For Tomorrow: Overarching Themes and Recommendations

In the course of its deliberations, the committee recognized that a number of themes surfaced, often regardless of whether the focus of the discussion was teaching, research, or extension. These overarching themes and accompanying recommendations, which are grouped in this chapter, represent the committee's consensus on how the LGCA system as a whole can be strengthened and best prepared for the future.

Four overarching themes emerged:

  1. the need for an expanded and inclusive view of the modern food and agricultural system;
  2. the need for multistate, multi-institutional, and multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships (that is, a "new geography" for the land grant system);
  3. the need to reinvigorate the tripartite mission through the integration of teaching, research, and extension; and
  4. the need for enhanced accountability and guiding principles for the use of public, especially federal, resources.

An Expanded and Inclusive View of The Modern Food and Agricultural System

The committee believes that the national network of LGCAs must critically and continually assess its challenges and opportunities against an expanding and inclusive panorama of the modern food and agricultural system. An understanding of the complex needs and evolving characteristics of the food and agricultural system is a necessary condition for the continuing relevance of the land grant system, especially for its future as the major public repository of the food and agricultural system's knowledge base. An appreciation for the diversity of participants and stakeholders in the modern food and agricultural system is the basis for an institution that continues to be accessible to people and their practical needs. Relevancy and accessibility are at the heart of the land grant philosophy and mandate.

The modern U.S. food and agricultural system is large, complex, diverse, and dynamic. These characteristic are documented in the committee's first report, Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile (National Research Council, 1995a) and are thus only briefly recapped here.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 21
--> 2 A Land Grant System For Tomorrow: Overarching Themes and Recommendations In the course of its deliberations, the committee recognized that a number of themes surfaced, often regardless of whether the focus of the discussion was teaching, research, or extension. These overarching themes and accompanying recommendations, which are grouped in this chapter, represent the committee's consensus on how the LGCA system as a whole can be strengthened and best prepared for the future. Four overarching themes emerged: the need for an expanded and inclusive view of the modern food and agricultural system; the need for multistate, multi-institutional, and multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships (that is, a "new geography" for the land grant system); the need to reinvigorate the tripartite mission through the integration of teaching, research, and extension; and the need for enhanced accountability and guiding principles for the use of public, especially federal, resources. An Expanded and Inclusive View of The Modern Food and Agricultural System The committee believes that the national network of LGCAs must critically and continually assess its challenges and opportunities against an expanding and inclusive panorama of the modern food and agricultural system. An understanding of the complex needs and evolving characteristics of the food and agricultural system is a necessary condition for the continuing relevance of the land grant system, especially for its future as the major public repository of the food and agricultural system's knowledge base. An appreciation for the diversity of participants and stakeholders in the modern food and agricultural system is the basis for an institution that continues to be accessible to people and their practical needs. Relevancy and accessibility are at the heart of the land grant philosophy and mandate. The modern U.S. food and agricultural system is large, complex, diverse, and dynamic. These characteristic are documented in the committee's first report, Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile (National Research Council, 1995a) and are thus only briefly recapped here.

OCR for page 21
--> Characteristics of the Food and Agricultural System Consumer Driven The U.S. food and agricultural system is increasingly driven by consumers' preferences and concerns, in keeping with its its role in a highly developed economy. Today these preferences and concerns encompass price, sensory attributes, nutrition, convenience, variety, food safety, diet-related health, cultural and ethnic preferences, and concerns regarding the methods of producing foods and raising animals and their impacts. Most of the economic value in the food and agricultural system is generated outside the farm gate as commodities are transformed for consumer markets through processing, manufacturing, and packaging and differentiated to meet specific consumer preferences. Additionally, farm production practices, the goals of plant and animal breeding, and the application of biotechnology to crops and livestock are themselves increasingly responsive to consumer preferences and concerns. Yet, at the same time that consumer-oriented markets are a driving force in the food and agricultural system, consumers themselves often have less (or asymmetric) information about the qualities and embodied attributes, particularly nonsensory attributes, of food and agricultural products than do manufacturers and suppliers. Incomplete or inaccurate information precludes consumers from always making well-informed changes in consumption patterns, thus market forces may not influence product and technology development in ways that best serve consumers' needs (see Box text, pp. 16–17). Although public policy includes labeling, food safety, and other production certification standards, the situation creates the need for public sector research. Ecosystem Accountability The food and agricultural system is increasingly asked to be accountable to an urban- and suburban-based public for its conservation of natural resources such as water, soil, rangeland, and fossil fuels and for protection of environmental amenities spanning open space, wildlife habitat, and water and air quality. Farmers are asked to be—and many want to be—effective natural resource stewards and ecosystem managers. They consequently face an increasingly complex policy and regulatory environment; they require new knowledge and expertise regarding management and technological alternatives that can help them manage pests and control disease, be profitable and competitive, and be accountable to public concerns. Global Markets The food and agricultural system is a global system. Significant shares of not only bulk commodities but also processed food and agricultural products enter global markets in search of new customers, creating jobs in export-oriented industries, and generating foreign exchange for the nation. Goods, capital, and technology flow readily across national boundaries expanding trade, foreign investment, and technological opportunities in the food and agricultural industry and contributing to global economic growth, while creating a more intensely competitive environment for producers, firms, and workers. A global system also means that U.S. consumers cannot be insulated from pressures on food and agricultural markets that might occur as world population continues to expand in the presence of constrained resources or unsustainable resource use. Thus both U.S. and non-U.S. consumers and producers share interests in science and research that continue to improve the efficiency of global markets and the sustainability of production systems. Biotechnology's Role Food and agricultural production is increasingly science based, and the food and agricultural system is increasingly able to capitalize on scientists' growing command of

OCR for page 21
--> the genetics of plants and livestock. This has important implications for the ability to adapt crop varieties and livestock to meet consumer demands for food attributes. It may also be an important means of reducing reliance on farm chemicals and thereby enhancing farm worker safety, food safety, and environmental quality. This new science has intellectual property protection in the form of patents and thus comes with new incentives for the private sector to engage in agricultural research and development. There is yet, however, no biotechnology "fix." The joint and profitable management of productive resources and public goods (such as air and water quality, natural habitat, and human health) requires tremendously sophisticated knowledge of biological and physical processes and systems, and the ability to integrate and base management decisions on large amounts of quantitative information (Lacy, 1993). Economic Inequities The food and agricultural system continues to be characterized by economic inequities. Despite enormous productivity and production abundance, the system still includes many individuals and families who have inadequate access to food and a substandard nutritional status. In fact, 1 in 10 U.S. citizens is a recipient of food stamps, and many who do not participate in the food stamp program do meet the qualifications (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1988). The food and agricultural system also includes many limited-resource farmers who confront poverty with few economic alternatives. Approximately 185,000 of the 2.1 million farm operators in the United States have been classified by USDA as "limited-opportunity farm-operator households"—that is, farm-operator households that have (a) farm sales less than $100,000, (b) farm assets less than $150,000, and (c) gross household income less than $20,000 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 1996). Most of these households are located in the South, and the operators tend to be older and have less formal education than the majority of farm operators. "The Farm": A Changing Perspective The food and agricultural economy is highly concentrated. Economic concentration has long characterized food distribution and processing and the agricultural inputs sector. The primary production or farm sector has also become increasingly concentrated. The majority of farms are medium- and small-scale operations, but they produce a much smaller share of the agricultural output that enters commercial channels (and a majority of these farms rely significantly on off-farm sources of income); a much smaller number of very large farms produce most commercial output (National Research Council, 1995a). This is a trend that is unlikely to be reversed but that has nonetheless troubled U.S. society, which values its concept of the "family farm." An emerging characteristic of the U.S. food and agricultural system is "industrialization." In the industrialized sector, farming, processing, and marketing activities are vertically integrated and may be components of a single corporate entity. Subcontractors are employed to manage, for example, the crop or livestock operation, while livestock and other assets are owned and much of the decision making is controlled by the firm acting as "integrator." The consumer-orientated food markets, the globalization of markets, and the new science base for agriculture (Paarlberg, 1995) have been factors in the increasing industrialization of agriculture. For example, introducing new varieties of fruits and vegetables, establishing brands, and contracting out with farmers are strategies adopted by biotechnology firms specializing in genetically engineered fruits and vegetables over which they have proprietary rights. Chemical and pharmaceutical companies may enter industrial farming in significant numbers in the future as the potential to genetically alter plants and animals to produce products with unique medicinal or industrial values expands (Zilberman and Sunding, 1995).

OCR for page 21
--> Industrialization of U.S. Agriculture The industrialization of U.S. agriculture involves the integration of formerly separate decision making sectors: input suppliers, farm operators, processors, grocers, and consumers. Integration is carried out through contractual arrangements or the vertical integration of separate units under single ownership. The use of production and marketing contracts was pervasive in some sectors of U.S. agriculture by 1970. For example, produced under contract were 92 percent of broilers, 85 percent of vegetables for processing, 70 percent of hatching eggs, 60 percent of turkeys, and 55 percent of citrus. Between 1970 and 1990 contractual arrangements also increased rapidly in the hog sector. In fact, the role of vertically integrated ownership increased substantially in a number of sectors during that time period. For example, between 1970 and 1990, integrated ownership increased (as a percent of production) from 30 to 40 percent of fresh vegetables, from 12 to 28 percent of turkeys, from 20 to 50 percent of market eggs, and from 12 to 33 percent of sheep and lamb production (O'Brien, 1994). According to Paarlberg (1995), the increase in contractual farming and vertical integration has been most spectacular since 1963 in eggs, cattle feeding, and hogs. Paarlberg writes that the increase in contract farming and vertical integration has advanced most rapidly where certain circumstances have prevailed: where there was unexploited knowledge (that is, known in the laboratory but not applied on the farms) as in the poultry industry; where there were potential economies of scale, as in the production of hybrid seed corn; where standardization and steady flow to market of an improved product offered promise, as in pork production; where repetitive operations rationalized the use of supervised low-cost labor, as for processed fruits and vegetables; where new products not envisioned by the initial producer could be developed, as for potatoes; where there was opportunity for product differentiation, as in brand names for canned peaches; and where the family farm tradition was weak, as in the far west and the deep south. In sharp contrast to industrialization, but again in response to highly differentiated consumer demands, is the rise in some areas of the nation of a segment of farmers engaged in production for niche markets. Niche marketers produce specialty crops and are typically independent, small-scale producers, located near large urban markets (such as in the northeast) and likely to market directly to small grocers, through roadside stands, or at urban farmers' markets. Although many of these direct or niche-market farmers require additional sources of income, they are able to take advantage of a rural life-style at the same time that they bring resources and vitality to the rural areas, and fill specialized food and farm-product demands.

OCR for page 21
--> Implications for the Future Involving the Stakeholders Emerging from this overview of the modern food and agricultural system are some important implications for the LGCAs' research, extension, and education programs. First, the overview highlights the high expectations the U.S. public has for the performance of its food and agricultural system and the diversity of the food and agricultural system's beneficiaries or stakeholders. The logical conclusion is that these stakeholders be involved in shaping the research and education agenda and that the projects and programs undertaken reflect their expectations. However, many beneficiaries of the food and agricultural system (such as urban and suburban residents) have had little knowledge of or connection to the college of agriculture, in spite of the fact that they, as consumers and taxpayers, clearly have a stake in the outcomes of the colleges' programs and activities. Unfortunately some groups (consumer and environmental groups, small and ''alternative" farmers, minorities, low-income families) have felt or been perceived to be under-served or excluded (Beus and Dunlap, 1992; Castle, 1981; Debertin, 1993; Hassebrook and Hegyes, 1989; Madden, 1986; Marston, 1993; Strange, 1982), despite the fact that public funds provide the majority of the LGCA system's resources for research and extension and support academic programs as well. A 1982 survey (which unfortunately has not been updated) showed that approximately 25 percent of U.S. households had ever contacted or used the extension service; approximately 10 percent had in the prior year (Warner and Christenson, 1984). Although the largest number of users lived in metropolitan counties, the largest percentage of users were nonmetropolitan (43 percent) as opposed to metropolitan (23 percent) residents, and more farmers (57 percent) were users than nonfarmers (25 percent). Users and nonusers also differed in demographics: younger and older adults were underrepresented in relation to middle-aged adults; blacks were underrepresented in relation to whites; and low-income families were underrepresented in relation to middle- and upper-middle income families (Warner and Christenson, 1984.) Broadening and diversifying effective input into the priority-setting process is crucial to building the relevance of the Lucas' programs to a broader cross section of the population. It is a step that has a potential payoff for the colleges' traditional agricultural clientele because expanding input and participation by diverse groups is an important means of broadening the constituency base for food and agricultural science and education. Expanding access and participation also helps ensure that consumers and a broader set of potential users are familiar with production technologies developed at the colleges and can contribute effectively to assessments of the benefits and costs to society. In fact, in recent years many colleges have begun to take the important step of soliciting broad stakeholder input and participation. For example, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, through its Food Systems Professions Education Initiative, has funded 12 collaborative visioning processes (representing 26 universities in 21 states) designed to draw diverse constituencies together to focus on the role, mission, and structure of food systems education programs for the future (W. K. Kellogg Foundation). Resource adjustments are, however, difficult for all institutions, and many of the major issues of significant concern to the nation's communities and citizens have appeared to command minor portions of the Lucas' resources. These include (not ordered by priority) food safety, the linkages between diet and health, environmental quality, economic and equity issues such as opportunities for small-scale and family farms, rural vitality, and poverty and access to food (Reichelderfer, 1991; Robbers and Smith, 1995). For example, in the Profile report (Table 4-6:pp. 64-65), based on statistics from the USDA Current Research Information System (CRIS), which solicits and aggregates data about research conducted by experiment station and cooperating institution scientists, the data show that in 1992 "food and nutrition for optimal health" commanded a little more than 3 percent of total scientist years and "social sciences issues" accounted for approximately 12 percent of all scientist years (National Research Council, 1995a). In 1994—using a slightly different aggregation

OCR for page 21
--> USDA's Current Research Information System for Food and Agricultural Research Food and agricultural research benefits from an inventory system called the Current Research Information System (CRIS). CRIS is the USDA documentation and reporting system for publicly supported agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research in the United States. It was initiated in 1966 and designed to assist persons who carry out joint research program planning, evaluation, and coordination. Research conducted by USDA, state agricultural experiment stations, forestry schools, 1890 colleges, colleges of veterinary medicine, and other institutions is included. CRIS codifies research in several different ways. One way is by the commodity or resource that is the focus of the research—for example, soil and land, wheat, or farmer cooperatives. A second classification is research goal. Nine general goals are available, such as to "protect forests, crops and livestock from insects, diseases, and pests," "produce an adequate supply of farm and forest products at decreasing real production costs," and "protect consumer health and improve nutrition and well-being of the American people." Each general goal encompasses as many as a dozen subgoals. A third classification is research program group. There are eight groups, including natural resources; forest resources; crops; animals; people, communities and institutions; competition, trade, adjustment, price and income policy; general resource or technology; and food science and human nutrition. Researchers are also asked to report their funding sources, the area of science, the percentages of the research that are basic, applied, and developmental, and the staff effort devoted to the project. Despite the comprehensiveness of the CRIS system, some users have found it difficult to determine how many resources are devoted to specific goals, such as reducing pesticide use or exposure. Because of the general nature of the categories, it is difficult to detect shifts in research emphasis. Also, researchers do not report anticipated impacts or specific beneficiaries. CRIS should be maintained because it is a consistent, historical record of experiment station research. Improvements should enhance the inventory's usefulness for assessing new directions for publicly funded research investments and research contributions to public policy goals. SOURCE: US. Department of Agriculture. 1995. Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Inventory of Agricultural Research Fiscal Year 1994, August 1995. of research projects—experiment stations and other cooperating institutions committed 4.7 percent of their research expenditures to "food science and human nutrition" and 3.8 percent to research on "people, communities, and institutions" (US. Department of Agriculture, 1995). The principal focuses of agricultural research continue to be crops, animals, and forest resources, although the current research reporting system, because of its design, makes it difficult to accurately assess the contributions of these research categories to specific public issues and particular constituencies. Several national and regional planning bodies and the US. Congress play important roles in identifying priorities for food and agricultural system research and education (Table 2-1). For example, the Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences (Joint

OCR for page 21
--> TABLE 2-1 Planning or Advisory Body Priorities for Food and Agricultural System Research and Education, 1994 Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences National Agricultural Research and Extension Users Advisory Board Experiment Station Committee on on Organization and Policy Achieve economically viable production systems compatible with environmental and social concerns. Profitability and competitiveness: e.g., develop profitable production systems that reduce agriculture's contribution to water quality problems. Environment and natural resources Provide a safe, affordable, reliable, and nutritious food supply.   Nutrition, food safety, and health Educate agricultural scientists and professionals to meet future challenges. Consumer and post production issues: e.g., determine the role of diet in obesity, eating disorders and chronic disease. Processes and products: e.g., new and improved nonfood products     Economic and social issues Improving global competitiveness of the U.S. food, agricultural, and forest products. Sustainable agriculture. Animal systems Empower individuals, families, and communities to improve their quality of life. Economic development: e.g., encourage development of opportunities for niche-market farmers engaged in activities such as organic and alternative production enterprises. Plant systems Council) was established by Congress to improve the planning and coordination of research, education, and economics programs (1977, 1981, 1985, and 1990 farm bills). Its membership includes producers, the food and agribusiness industries, state and federal agencies, and land grant and state universities. The Joint Council recommends priorities and identifies expected outcomes each fiscal year. The National Agricultural Research and Extension Users Advisory Board (UAB), also authorized by the 1977, 1981, 1985, and 1990 farm bills, represents consumers, environmentalists, nutritionists, and laborers as well as farmers, ranchers, farm suppliers, and food processors in recommending initiatives and shifts in direction for food and agricultural research and education (National Agricultural Research and Extension Users Advisory Board, 1995; see Table 2-1). The U.S. Congress, through the research title of the farm bills, establishes broad goals for the national research system based on input from the executive branch and other planning and advisory groups. In response to input from specific constituent groups, Congress also authorizes and appropriates funds for special research programs. For example, the 1990 farm bill placed particular emphasis on alternative agricultural research (Smith, 1995). The challenge continues to be translating these priority-setting processes into resource allocation decisions at the colleges and experiment stations. Guidance in determining research priorities is provided to experiment stations by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges' (NASULGC) Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP), which annually conducts an agricultural budget review and priority-setting exercise. [A similar exercise is conducted for extension priorities by NASULGC's Extension Committee on Organization

OCR for page 21
--> and Policy (ECOP). ESCOP's priorities are, however, broad and sufficiently all-encompassing that it is easy to include any research project within one of its priority designations (see Table 2-1 and the Profile report, p. 63). Its recommendations apply to the entire experiment station research portfolio and thus are not useful for differentiating priorities for research conducted with federal, state, or private resources. At the state level, a variety of methods to influence the direction of research conducted with state or federal formula funds are used. Methods range from close control by the experiment station director to virtual freedom for college departments or individual researchers to use internally allocated funds to pursue the research issues they deem most important. The degree to which users and stakeholder customers of the experiment station research program are involved in priority setting also varies widely among states, despite the efforts mentioned above. The focus of experiment station research supported by federal competitive grants is determined by the nature of the research solicited by the grant programs' Requests for Proposals (RFPs). The RFPs for the USDA's National Initiative for Research on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (NRI), at present the largest source of competitive grants for agricultural research, are written by NRI program directors.1 The program directors have operated without a strategic departmental policy for research agenda setting and prioritization (Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). Although these program directors solicit the opinions of representatives of various research user groups, nonscientist stakeholders are not directly involved in decision making, and there is no way to gauge the extent to which informal advice from stakeholders affects program directors' decisions. There is a need to go further in narrowing the gap between stakeholder input and the outcomes of resource allocation decisions. RECOMMENDATION 1. Receipt by LGCAs of USDA-administered research and extension funds—including formula funds and competitive grants—should be contingent on their ability to demonstrate that a wide variety of stakeholders have effective input into a systematic prioritization (no less often than biennially) of research, extension, and joint research-extension issues, that specifies areas of increased and decreased emphasis. Further, LGCAs must demonstrate that a wide variety of stakeholders are consulted in resource allocation decision making processes. (Also see Recommendation 9.) Working with Producers The second implication of an expanded perspective on the food and agricultural system is the challenge and complexity of serving and meeting the needs of today's and tomorrow's agricultural producers. As indicated, producers are an exceedingly diverse group, spanning vertically integrated firms and their contractors, large corporate farms 1   Two reports from the National Research Council's Board on Agriculture focused on USDA's National Initiative for Research on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (NRI). The first, Investing in Research: A Proposal to Strengthen the Agricultural, Food, and Environmental System (National Research Council, 1989b), proposed a substantial expansion of the use of competitive research grants in agriculture and resulted in the creation of the NRI by the 1990 farm bill. The board's proposal suggested the six program areas that still form the core of the NRI program. The original proposal also supported four types of competitive grants: (1) principal investigator, (2) fundamental multidisciplinary team, (3) mission-linked multidisciplinary team, and (4) research strengthening. Major emphasis was to be given to multidisciplinary teams. The second Board on Agriculture report, Investing in the National Research Initiative: An Update of the Competitive Grants Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (National Research Council, 1994a), evaluated the status of the NRI. The second report did not identify any significant drift from the program's (and the board's) original objectives, although some original objectives—such as 50 percent multidisciplinary research—have not been fully realized. (See committee's discussion of its support for multidisciplinary research in Chapter 4.)

OCR for page 21
--> (that are often family-owned), moderate-sized family farms, niche marketers and other "alternative" growers (such as organic farmers), and low-income, limited resource farms. On average, farm family incomes are on a par with average income for nonfarm families; and like nonfarm families, U.S. farm families span the income scale from very wealthy to exceedingly poor (Dacquel and Dahmann, 1993). As was reported in the Profile report, some farm families have few, if any, economic alternatives; others already earn most of their income off the farm (National Research Council, 1995a). The diversity of producer groups within the production sector provides a tremendous range of experiences and, thus, also generates a wide array of specialized research and information needs, thereby posing significant challenges to the research, academic, and extension programs in the LGCA system. It is important for the LGCA system to retain and enhance its relevance to the agricultural production sector broadly defined. The science base for the next generation of technological advances and the training for the next generation of the agricultural work force must be relevant to the commercial sector because the performance of commercial agriculture is integrally linked to U.S. economic performance, the stock and quality of the natural resource base, the sector and nation's international competitiveness, and the world's ability to produce sufficient food at reasonable cost for a still rapidly expanding population. At the same time, the LGCA system must be relevant to the multitude of smaller producers who bring a diversity of skills, ideas, and practices to agriculture, bring economic activity to rural communities, enhance the natural landscape, and supply a variety of specialized market niches. Many believe that without this segment of production agriculture, the nation would be less vital and rich in life-style and economic alternatives. Service to the country's low-income or limited-resource farmers is no less (and may be even more) a land grant mandate. The land grant system originated to serve the working class through assuring its access to science-based knowledge and educational opportunities; in certain regions and pockets of the country, that mandate is no less critical today than in the system's earliest years. RECOMMENDATION 2. In light of the changing structure of agriculture and the importance of diverse participants in production agriculture, the LGCA system should critically assess the needs of all producer population groups, develop priorities and targeted programs for each, and adjust technology transfer and information delivery modes appropriately. This does not mean that the system must be all things to all people. On the contrary, LGCAs should focus on the highest priority research and information needs not likely to be met by the private sector. Increasing rates of agricultural research and information privatization, as discussed by Wolf (1996), may, in effect, free some LGCA resources that can then be devoted to a broader based clientele. But because different types and differently organized producer groups receive different types and degrees of assistance, attention, and input from the private sector, the committee recommends that the LGCA system assess and address the diversity of needs that remain in the public purview. Low-resource producers are likely to require quite different and relatively more public assistance than are highly specialized or vertically integrated producers. Understanding the Growing Role of Privatization and Developing the Knowledge Base The third implication is the need for a comprehensive understanding of how the new science is influencing incentives for research by private actors in the food and agricultural

OCR for page 21
--> system and the implications of those new incentives for the LGCA system's own role. Advances in science are contributing to the restructuring of the food and agricultural industry, redefining educational needs and technological opportunities, and realigning relative roles for public and private research. The increasing importance of biotechnology, coupled with patent protection for genetically engineered organisms, has significantly enhanced opportunities to engage in proprietary biological research (Office of Technology Assessment, 1992). This has increased agricultural and food systems research by private firms, such as biotechnology companies as well as by seed, food manufacturing, and pharmaceutical companies (Fuglie et al., 1996). Private sector agricultural research expenditures are estimated to have exceeded $3.4 billion in 1992, up from only $0.2 billion in 1960 (an annual average growth rate of 3.5 percent in real terms). Investments have grown most rapidly in relation to agricultural chemicals, animal health, plant breeding, and applications of biotechnology (Klotz et al., 1995). Private funding is also increasing for agricultural research on the large commercial and vertically integrated farms. Firms develop crop varieties, livestock, and fish stock with carefully selected traits; growth hormones and pharmaceuticals; and biological controls. They contract with growers for field testing and crop, livestock, and fish production; and retain proprietary rights to the genetically engineered product or stock. Because of the strong proprietary incentives, they also conduct adaptive research to determine optimal growing or production conditions, feeding rations, and management practices. The advent of biotechnology greatly expands opportunities in food and agricultural research (Doyle, 1985; National Research Council, 1987); it also blurs distinctions that have been useful in the past for defining public versus private roles. The LGCA system needs to pursue opportunities in biotechnology to the benefit of the food and agricultural system, with a special responsibility for assuring that the benefits of new knowledge and technological advances are distributed broadly. Equally important is the opportunity, as private research in animal and plant breeding (and accompanying adaptive research) expands, to refocus public research and extension funds on the many critical research and extension needs where there are limited incentives for private funding. The committee believes the public food and agricultural research and extension system—encompassing both intra- and extramural programs—would benefit from further study of the implications of new developments in biotechnology for the division of labor between public and private research entities and recommends that such a study be undertaken. A New Geography And New Partnerships The LGCA system has until recently been comprised of 76 institutions in 50 states, 6 territories, and the District of Columbia (National Research Council, 1995a). In 1994 the 29 Native American colleges that comprise the American Indian Higher Education Consortium were granted land grant status. The focus of this report, however, is the 1862 and 1890 colleges because at the time the committee's charge was developed, the land grant system was composed only of the 1862s and the 1890s. All LGCAs have some important commonalities derived from the land grant purposes, philosophies, and formula funding base, although they represent considerable diversity in institution type, including size, populations served, funding portfolio, and university context (such as whether the university is a nationally prominent research institution). For the LGCA system to adopt a research and education agenda that reflects an expanded and inclusive view of the food and agricultural system (encompassing the priorities of consumers and the many specialized needs of diverse producer groups), it must realize organizational efficiencies and strengthen partnerships that have the potential to enhance the scope, quality, and relevance of the knowledge base. Although new incentives for private sector research and extension help to enlarge the entire pool of resources for scientific discovery and technological development, the LGCA system is essentially being asked to address a wider array of issues with current or few new

OCR for page 21
--> resources. The system, however, has the potential to draw on its resources more efficiently through regional initiatives and centers; through multi-institutional, collaborative efforts in teaching, research, and extension; and through the use of advanced information and communications technologies. The committee refers to these types of arrangements as a "new geography." The internal incentives to undertake multistate and multi-institutional collaborative activities have been lacking in the past. They may, however, be increasing with growing constraints on individual state and university resources; and, as recommended below, the federal government can enhance the system's incentives to collaborate through the design of its grant programs. In the system's early years there was strong justification for a land grant college located in every state—farming was the country's principal occupation and industry, the nation was sparsely populated, transportation networks were poorly developed, rural people were isolated, and there was very little access to higher education for the working classes. The federal land grants (and later cash grants) were an important motivation to states to initiate and support colleges, particularly ones that would focus on studies useful to the advancement of peoples' economic status and the country's industrial base (Cochrane, 1979). Although a college in every state was the logical ideal at the time of the system's inception, the committee does not believe there is any ideal number of colleges of agriculture either today or in the future. Given modern transportation and telecommunication networks, and the nature of modern food and agricultural system issues and science opportunities, there are many opportunities and reasons for more efficiently and effectively utilizing the system's resources. This new geography can capitalize on the diversity that already exists within the land grant system. The original land grant colleges share legislative roots in the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, Hatch Act, and Smith-Lever Act. National-and regional-level research, extension, and academic planning committees link the institutions' agendas in a very general way, as described above. Scientists collaborate across institutions; there are examples of regional research efforts; "articulation" and "bridging" agreements (written agreements that facilitate the transfer of students among institutions and the exchange of academic credits) exist; and the use of the Internet as an educational platform is occurring, as examples in this report indicate. Many of these efforts are, however, informal or have the potential to be much more effective. The Case for a New Geography Has Several Foundations and Dimensions First, states are often not the best unit of organization or operation for food and agricultural system issues. There are many issues and problems that call for regional or multi-institutional efforts. Many natural resource and environmental issues, such as watershed management, cross state lines. Many consumer issues, such as nutrition and disease, know no political boundaries, or they may be specific to similar populations located in spatially separate areas of the country—such as the relationship between diet and non-insulin dependent diabetes in the Hispanic population (American Diabetes Association, 1993). Even within the farm sector, production issues are often pertinent to producers in a region that comprises all or parts of several states or regions in several noncontiguous states. In fact, statistical analysis reported in the Profile report (National Research Council, 1995a:pp. 93–96) suggests that significant regionalization of research focus has already occurred within the LGCA system. The analysis shows that LGCAs can be grouped into regional clusters defined by the focus of their commodity-specific research. For example, five contiguous states have research programs that emphasize corn, soybeans, and hogs; eight contiguous states have research programs focused on cattle, wheat, and vegetables; two contiguous states emphasize rice, soybeans, and beef cattle (Figure 7-4, p. 95, in the Profile report). Second, a broadened research and education agenda requires more efficiency. Every college cannot do everything; regional and multi-institutional collaborations would enable individual institutions to become more specialized, and to develop more depth in

OCR for page 21
--> Distance Education Distance education is rapidly becoming a reality. In the land grant system, A* DEC is a consortium of 46 universities that uses distance education technology to share undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, extension programming, research findings, and international speakers. Current technologies include audio/video via satellite, phone, fax, and computer systems. Programs include for-credit courses, short courses, workshops, certificate programs, and conferences. More than 30 courses were offered in the 1995-1996 academic year, including courses in marketing, meteorology, biochemistry, nutrition, community, statistics, and wildlife conservation. At lowa State University, the Internet as a course platform has been experimented with by Professors Takle and Taber, who offer a class on the global environment (cross-listed in Meteorology, Agronomy, and Environmental Studies) through the Internet. They say, ''the computer allows development of a more complete information base for the course that may consist of text, colored photographs, animated images, video, and audio, … and the merging of real-time information such as weather forecasts, satellite observations of sea surface temperature, and ozone hole measurements." The computer also enables students to react to information in the data base and to extend course interaction beyond class time. Accessibility is enhanced, the professors argue, because students who have access to work stations can gain access to the homepage and information base 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They also feel that the Internet-based course promotes continuing education because students can continue to participate in the course after it is over and even after they have graduated. cross state lines, true regionalization of staffing decisions, and philosophical differences regarding the role of the consortium director (R. L. Christenson, University of Massachusetts, personal communication, 1996); nonetheless, the guiding principle for new and existing consortium extension programs is that they capitalize on the breadth and depth of extension's resources in two or more states. To demonstrate that principle, the six New England state extension systems established an agreement for sharing the expertise and resources of poultry specialists. They developed a regional approach to train faculty and staff to carry out extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). The states also combined their resources for training in public policy education (Sanderson, 1992). The work of the consortium has led to increased multistate efforts in youth, family, and water quality programs (R. L. Christenson, University of Massachusetts, personal communication, 1996). Multifaceted Issues Require New Partnerships As many colleges have recognized, there are important reasons to build partnerships among departments and among disciplines within the college, and among colleges within the university. Understanding and resolving many food and agricultural system issues requires an approach that accounts for complex interactions among physical, biological, social, and economic processes (Lacy, 1993; Lockeretz and Anderson, 1993; National Research Council, 1993). LGCAs must also build stronger bridges to other university colleges and departments if the best science is to be used to solve agricultural

OCR for page 21
--> A Short Course by Satellite South Dakota State University created a cattlemen's satellite short course as a distance learning program for people involved in the cow-calf phase of beef production. This program was conceived by the Cooperative Extension Service and consisted of 15 90-minute seminars broadcast via satellite on a biweekly basis to sites in 46 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Approximately two-thirds of each broadcast was devoted to lecture and one-third was devoted to questions that were either phoned or faxed in from viewers. A facilitator at each regional site coordinated the local meetings and assisted group discussions and interactions. Seminars were augmented with handouts and correspondence mailed to participants between seminars. The format allowed for many of the topics to be presented during the same time frame that viewers were making decisions on the farm or ranch regarding those issues. Viewer surveys reflected that 60 percent of the participants were cattle producers, 24 percent were involved in some form of agribusiness (banking, veterinary medicine, sales, marketing), and 16 percent were extension personnel. and food system problems. Collaborative efforts in both teaching and research, and designing courses that fill both college and science or college and humanities requirements are ways to strengthen these linkages (see Chapter 3, Teaching). Greater integration of agricultural and resource economics programs with general economics programs, of biotechnology programs in colleges of agriculture with those in medical schools and other units, and of the plant sciences with botany, are examples of situations in which greater integration promises to have a high payoff. The USDA's NRI program has been an important (in fact, the only formal) means of drawing scientists from outside the colleges' experiment stations into agricultural research, broadening the science base, and expanding the opportunities for collaborative research between experiment station and other scientists (National Research Council, 1994a). The extension component of the LGCA system also has an important role in building bridges between the college of agriculture and the rest of the university. Over the years, extension's programs have extended into nonfarm areas, reaching out to low-income consumers to provide nutrition education and to rural and nonrural communities to provide services in economic, community, and human development (see Chapter 4, Extension). The knowledge base for these programs may lie outside the college of agriculture, offering the opportunity to draw other components of the university into outreach and public service efforts coordinated or led by the college of agriculture, or by central extension offices with strong participation by colleges of agriculture. The partnership between the colleges of agriculture and the federal government also calls for attention and enhancement. The importance of the federal partner as a funding source was highlighted during the economic recessions that struck many states in recent years. During the 1987–1992 period, for example, federal funding of LGCA, forestry schools, and veterinary medicine college research (including support from competitive and special research grants as well as formula funds) grew 10 percent per year, while state funding to the system increased 5 percent per year (nominal dollars) (Table 6-1, p. 76, in the Profile report). As constraints on all public funds for research continue to tighten, the LGCAs need (and should encourage and welcome) strong national leadership in building support among all U.S. residents and federal policy makers for food and agricultural science and education.

OCR for page 21
--> Intramural Structural Issues The LGCAs in most university systems are often semiautonomous relative to most other academic units in the system, in part because of funding structures on the federal, state, and local levels. Many areas of study and subdisciplines applied to the food and agricultural system have developed in the colleges separately from the development of parallel, more broadly based disciplines in other units: for example, agricultural economics versus economics in business or arts and sciences colleges; agricultural business versus colleges of business; agricultural communications versus schools of communications; agricultural education versus colleges of education; rural sociology versus departments of sociology; and biological sciences versus similar departments in colleges of arts and sciences. Agricultural engineering in many land grant universities is housed in some joint arrangement between the college of agriculture and the college of engineering, which may be a forerunner of other closer articulations. The committee believes such articulations are important to the future of the land grant system as the "peoples' universities." This is because the well-developed practical orientation and responsiveness to clientele that characterize the colleges of agriculture can positively influence the culture of other land grant university departments and colleges in directions consistent with contemporary demands on higher education. The committee also believes such articulations are vital to enhancing the quality of teaching, research, and extension programs of the colleges of agriculture. Renewing The Tripartite Mission: Integrating Teaching, Research, And Extension The federal vision for the land grant colleges began with the 1862 Morrill Act, which gave the colleges their teaching responsibilities. The vision expanded with the Hatch and Smith-Lever Acts to encompass the functions of research and extension in addition to teaching. Over the decades the land grant college has become identified with an educational system that integrates teaching, research, and extension. Other colleges and schools of the university provide instruction, conduct research, and engage in outreach or extension activities; but the LGCA system's major contribution and mark of pride has been its balanced commitment to the "tripartite mission." The LGCA system's commitment to the integration of teaching, research, and extension is extremely valuable because of the linkages it can engender among science, learning, and public service and must therefore be renewed and strengthened. Unfortunately, the separate administrative structures that have grown up around academic programs, research, and extension, which stem from the separate pieces of land grant legislation may hinder integration of the three functions and their programs (Beattie, 1991). Split appointments, separate structures and budgets, and separate federal grants programs for research and extension may in fact be divisive rather than integrating forces, and the committee strongly encourages LGCAs to rethink these often divisive arrangements. Some colleges of medicine simultaneously run hospital and health service units within states, offer graduate and undergraduate courses, conduct research, and provide public service information; yet their faculty do not divide their time between, for example, an experiment station for research and an extension service for off-campus activity (Meyer, 1968). When LGCA deans were asked by Meyer (1995) if they thought teaching, research, and extension functions were integrated effectively in their institutions, they indicated that there were problems and that the most improvement was needed in the interface between research and extension (Meyer, 1995).

OCR for page 21
--> Linking Teaching to Research and Extension The effective integration of teaching, research, and extension involves students in both the process of discovery and the delivery of research results and new knowledge to the public. Thus an integrated three-part mission links the academic experience directly to both the conduct of science and public service. There are many good examples of research being brought to the classroom and of students working with off-campus stakeholders through internships with cooperative extension. However, there are also indications that the three functions are not well knit into the fabric of the student's educational experience at an LGCA. One indicator is faculty appointment types. As was noted in the Profile report, most LGCA faculty appointments combine research and teaching or research and extension but rarely combine teaching and extension or all three responsibilities (National Research Council, 1995a). There are practical reasons for this—divided administrations, divided funding, etc. Thus the direct role of extension or the extension faculty in on-campus instruction does not seem to be well developed or integrally related. Another indicator of the lack of integration is the diverging interests of undergraduate students, faculty researchers, and extension staff. On average, the fields in which the majority of undergraduates major (such as agribusiness and agricultural economics and natural resources), the majority of research scientists specialize (such as plant and animal sciences), and many extension staff are involved (such as nutrition education and youth, family, and community leadership development) are not the same (National Research Council, 1995a). It is understandable, and not necessarily inappropriate, that the focuses of the three functions diverge as each adapts to different external and internal demands and incentives. However, this divergence limits the ready-made opportunities to combine research and extension with academic programs. Another barrier to an educational experience based on the integration of teaching, research, and extension is extension's status at many universities. In many states extension does not seem to be an important voice at the university; in some states it has become effectively separate from the colleges' academic and research missions; in some states extension specialists do not have faculty appointments. A more integrated role for extension in campus education and university affairs has the potential to enhance the public service component of the LGCA education and to complete the educational continuum spanning discovery to application. The link between student education and research occurs mostly through the participation of students on research teams, although many faculty also bring their research to the classroom. Students, as part of a research team, have important responsibilities and develop scientific abilities relatively rapidly in this environment. They learn by doing, and this on average leads to superbly trained personnel capable of solving problems. This system evolved at land grant universities and is widely emulated at other research universities. Graduate students have the most substantive involvement in this relationship; however, increasing numbers of undergraduates are also engaged in research as part-time employees and interns (see Box text, p. 37). There are, however, imperfections in the student-research link. For example, graduate students often do large amounts of menial labor, research projects are slowed by having continually to train new personnel, and faculty and students must balance their research and teaching or course work responsibilities. Nevertheless, the benefits greatly outweigh these imperfections. A more serious problem is communicating the value of this system to the public, particularly to those who fund land grant universities. The value of research for graduate training—and, conversely, the value of graduate training for research—is very much underappreciated. In truth, teaching and research usually are so intertwined that to separate them budgetarily is illogical. Nevertheless, partly because there are two products—new knowledge and trained personnel—and partly because there are different funding sources and accountability channels, this is precisely what is done. A growing concern is that although superb scientists are produced, it is a system that emphasizes the production of scientists with specialized disciplinary expertise at the

OCR for page 21
--> expense of developing other skills. Increasingly, industry, government, and even academia seek graduates at all degree levels—including Ph.D.—who are broadly trained, have multidisciplinary expertise, are flexible, are oriented toward teamwork, and have excellent communication skills (National Research Council, 1995b). The limitations of research assistantships as the only means of preparing students for science and engineering careers is discussed by Good and Lane (1994), who argue that assistantships too often bind students to their faculty mentors for financial support and thus limit innovative learning experiences such as participating in collaborative research with private corporations (Good and Lane, 1994). The LGCA system, given its history of practical education and close ties to farm and agribusiness clientele, is well suited to provide an educational experience that develops modern work place skills and experiential breadth as well as excellent research and problem-solving skills and disciplinary depth. An important and growing link between teaching and extension occurs through the growing need for lifelong educational opportunities. The need for lifelong learning has grown with the increase in life expectancy, the significant speed with which new knowledge is generated in society, and the rapid reconfiguration of the national and international economy. The scientific and technological cadre that serves the food and agricultural sector needs to be kept abreast of the new knowledge being developed and its application to problems in society. In addition, many people who missed educational opportunities early in their lives find career advancement limited without additional formal education. Although the committee was unable to devote time and attention to this issue, it does believe that formal programs of midcareer education are needed and that the needed level of these programs is likely to be more than can be provided through current extension services. This is an area that calls for attention and combined commitment from both extension and academic program administrators. Research-Extension Linkages One aspect that has made the land grant system unique is the way it has linked agricultural research and off-campus extension education. Historically, university specialists and county extension agents have worked closely with farmers and other users of experiment station research, translating research findings for them and advising them about how to use research information. Sometimes the agents have interpreted and communicated back to researchers and teachers in experiment stations and university departments the problems and research needs of farmers, rural communities, and other client groups. When it works, this two-way flow of insights and information can be the engine for a "cascade of knowledge" (see Chapter 4). It has also provided justification for formula-based research funding, since the research-extension linkage model benefits from researchers being unhindered by contractual grants and thus able to attend to the problems and issues identified by extension personnel. Available evidence, however, suggests that claims of the research-extension linkage may be overstated. First, extension programs seem to respond to a different set of national, state, and local priorities than do experiment station-based research programs. This probably results from the extension programs' greater reliance on local and state funding support, which has encouraged a focus by extension on some local and state community needs that have not been emphasized by federally funded agricultural research. The end result is that a large part of the research base for extension programs in community, family, and youth leadership development, other social science issues, and nutrition, diet, and health (representing more than 50 percent of extension program effort and less than 20 percent of experiment station research effort) is likely to come from outside the experiment station and perhaps from outside the land grant university system. Another way to look at the situation is that a significant portion of extension's resources are unlikely to be providing input to the course and direction of experiment station-based science.

OCR for page 21
--> The Role of Students in Research A variety of students are involved in land grant university research; graduate students have the greatest involvement as part of their training. Masters-level students typically have 2- to 3-year programs, and doctorate-level students invest typically 4+ years. In some fields, the majority of graduate students are from nations other than the United States, which indicates the value placed on graduate training in the United States. Postdoctoral students who usually stay for 2 to 3 years have become a major source of research manpower; they already have considerable training and usually take few classes to they can devote most of their time to research under the guidance of faculty and other scientists. In sheer numbers, the majority of personnel in research programs are undergraduates. They typically work at minimum wage on a part-time, hourly basis. Although research thus partially supports their education financially, many also become keenly interested in science by such exposure. Many undergraduates also serve as interns or do special research studies. These experiential programs are a growing and valuable contribution of research to undergraduate education. Some undergraduate students and programs are funded directly by USDA, private companies, and nongovernmental organizations. Some research grants mandate that researchers identify ways the work will contribute to both undergraduate and graduate student learning. Second (and related), the subject-matter focus of university-based extension specialists who are often integrated into disciplinary departments are different than those of most county-based agents. For example, Feller et al. (1984) point out that in the field of human nutrition, the ratio of university-based specialists to county-based agents is low (when compared to the ratio of specialists to agents in production agriculture). Third, in the past few decades the evolution of the academic reward system has weakened the research-extension link by providing disincentives to researchers to engage in applied research and extension and to administrators to link research and extension responsibilities (Feller et al., 1987). RECOMMENDATION 4. The LGCA system and the federal government must revitalize the linkages among teaching, research, and extension. To further this goal, the committee recommends the following. Federal formula funding for research and extension should be combined into a single allocation to LGCAs for food and agricultural system research and extension, requiring that the use of these combined funds reflect a coordinated effort to link university research and extension in the national interest. (It should be strongly underscored that the intent of this recommendation is not to reduce the importance or destroy the integrity of one function or the other but to encourage their integration.) It should be required that one-half of the formula funds for research and extension at each institution be directed to fund programs, projects, and activities that integrate teaching, research, and extension, with a special emphasis on inter- and multidisciplinary programs and projects, and the engagement of students on research teams and in extension programs as interns and aides.

OCR for page 21
--> Recommendation 4 does not call for new formula funds, but rather aims to refocus the use of existing formula funds (which currently come from and go to two separate pots) more creatively and in the spirit of the land grant mandate of an integrated tripartite mission of teaching, research, and extension. The committee believes that to promote flexibility in the allocation of resources to support research and extension infrastructure and staffing needs of high-priority projects, after 5 years, no more than 50 percent of formula-based federal funding should be used to pay tenure-track faculty salaries. Additionally, it is important that—as linkages among teaching, research, and extension are encouraged and enhanced—researchers be allowed and encouraged to take advantage of new and innovative delivery mechanisms and public service outlets; and that extension staff be allowed and encouraged to flexibly access and take advantage of the scientific resources and knowledge base beyond the experiment station. Recommendation 4 is compatible with the 1995 reorganization of the USDA, which merged the federal Extension Service and the Cooperative State Research Service together to form the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. It is recognized, however, that this recommendation may require the restructuring of the administrative responsibilities in some LGCAs. Reevaluation of institutional structure is healthy and, with sufficient advance notice, can be managed responsibly in the interest of stronger programs. Accountability And Principles For The Use Of Public Funds As regards the use of public funds for science and technology projects, good management includes sound mechanisms for assuring integrity, effectiveness, and efficiency. The four mechanisms suggested below complement and enhance each other. A priority-setting process that incorporates input from a wide variety of stakeholders. (Priority setting is further discussed in "An Expanded and Inclusive View of the Modern Food and Agricultural System" [p. 21].) Greater use of competitive mechanisms and peer review for allocating research and extension funds. (The use of competitive funding mechanisms is discussed in Chapter 4.) Development of goals and measures that can direct and facilitate evaluations of program performance. Development of principles to guide the relative roles of the public and private sector in funding food and agricultural system research and extension. Federal grants programs can (some already do) rely on both scientists and nonscientists to assure that funding decisions have taken into account both scientific merit and public priorities. Principles that provide a rationale for the relative role of public and private funds may balance input from research and extension beneficiaries, which some believe may be overly weighted toward short-term or narrowly construed interests. Such principles support public funding of long-term fundamental research considered too unprofitable or risky for private sector investment but that, in the assessment of scientific experts, offers promise. At the same time, allocating public funds to research and extension programs on the basis of competition and peer review further enhances accountability in two fundamental ways: it provides a generally accessible public record of how and why the project or program funds were allocated, and it provides a quality check via review by professionals with the appropriate technical expertise (National Research Council, 1994a, 1995b; National Science Foundation, 1986). Currently, neither of these standards is used nationwide for formula or special (congressionally designated) funding of agricultural research and extension, although individual institutions may adhere to these principles and perform satisfactorily.

OCR for page 21
--> A Formal Mechanism for Integrating Teaching, Research, and Extension The committee's proposal that LGCAs direct one-half of federal formula funds received for research and extension toward integration activities stems from several perceived needs and problems: Many food and agricultural system problems, such as groundwater pollution, rural development, and food safety are not being adequately addressed. They simply cannot be solved by single investigators; new paradigms developed through multidisciplinary approaches are required. Research and extension personnel too often do not communicate with one another sufficiently; thus their collective efforts are correspondingly less productive. It is too often perceived that research activities are increasingly irrelevant to the teaching mission of land grant universities. This results in unrealized opportunities for experiential learning in research and extension. Integrated activities such as multidisciplinary research are difficult to fund, and mechanisms for rewarding participants are lacking; naturally, talented people currently are reluctant to get involved with such projects. Evidence suggests federal formula funding is spent almost entirely on salaries; thus there is little flexibility in using such funds to spawn new and creative initiatives that involve teaching, research, and extension resources. The proposal has several desirable features: It requires little or no additional federal funding, would affect only a small share (on average) of each college's budget, and does not pit one state against another. It "jump starts" integration activities in the tradition of Hatch funding for research and Smith-Lever funding for extension. It gives administrators a mandate to make changes that are otherwise politically difficult. It gives credibility to multidisciplinary and extension-linked research and makes them less risky for researchers. Specific implementation procedures, which could involve a phase-in period of 5 years, could be left up to each university. A partial exemption might be considered for states or territories and their LGCAs where federal formula funds provide more than 20 percent of the experiment station budget and 30 percent of the extension budget. Additionally, a federal coordinating committee might be set up to minimize duplication of efforts among states and identify opportunities for collaboration. Performance Goals and Standards The public increasingly seeks from the scientific community clear statements of goals and measurable standards of performance. This public sentiment is reflected in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 (Public Law 103-62), which requires every federal agency to have performance goals and measures for its programs by 1997 for its fiscal 1999 budget submission. The GPRA covers federal science and technology and is therefore applicable to the research, education, and extension grants

OCR for page 21
--> programs administered by USDA. As the major recipient of these grants, the LGCA system has a strong interest in working with the federal government to assure that meaningful and workable performance goals and measures are developed. Applying performance measures to research is exceedingly difficult. According to the National Academy of Sciences report Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology (1995:p. 27). Just as the tyranny of quarterly bottom lines can frustrate long-term corporate planning, so also can science be distorted by simple indicators such as publication counts, citation counts, patent counts, doctorates produced, or user satisfaction ratings. These are useful, but incomplete measures. … It makes sense to track relevant measures, but they cannot supplant the essential element of expert judgment that is the bedrock of quality assessment in research and development. Measuring the performance of LGCA educational programs—both campus-based and extension—is even more challenging (Warner and Christenson, 1984). For academic and extension programs, many of the simple indicators available for research are lacking. This dearth of readily available indicators of teaching and extension output may have led universities, including land grant universities and colleges of agriculture, to more heavily weight research output in granting tenure and promotions. It is widely perceived that in response to the incentives associated with research output, tenure-track faculty tend to give more weight to their research responsibilities than to teaching or public service. The committee believes that as USDA and the land grant colleges take up the issue of performance indicators, they have the opportunity to redress this imbalance, particularly for extension (or public service more generally), and also to develop indicators that stress the synergy among research, teaching, and extension. For example, evaluation of an extension program might include an expert assessment of the adequacy of the knowledge base for the program and give high marks to programs that effectively incorporate new science and technology. It might also evaluate how the program incorporates students—for example, as interns—in order to offer experiential learning opportunities and engage students in public service. Other criteria might be whether extension is responsive to market forces (and takes advantage of market opportunities) and is synergistic with respect to the use of resources based in different states. Additionally, the LGCA system could profit by making itself more open to review of its performance from outside the land grant community. The National Research Council recently published Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change (National Research Council, 1995c), which ranked doctorate programs in 41 fields at 274 universities. The agricultural sciences were omitted from the study (mostly because they had not been included in the preceding edition of the study). It is important for the national image and accountability of food and agricultural science that it be counted in such prominent quality assessments. Principles for the Use of Public Funds Fundamental to public accountability is a well-articulated and justified set of principles or guidelines for public funding of food and agricultural system research and extension. These principles should carefully delineate the relative roles of the public and private sectors. Having these principles in place makes priority-setting more straightforward and assures that public monies are not used for purposes that are well meaning but unnecessary because the private sector will direct its own resources to those ends. Having such principles also provides criteria against which the allocation of public funds can be assessed. Expenditure of federal funds is justified for research and extension that meets two basic criteria: (1) it addresses national needs and priorities and (2) it is aimed at generating public goods Public goods are a class of goods of a "common property" nature, that is, they benefit societal groups but do not provide the means for economic returns to private

OCR for page 21
--> individuals or firms. In technical terms derived from the economics literature, a pure public good has two characteristics—(1) "non-rivalry," which means that one person's use of it does not reduce the amount available to others, and (2) "non-excludability," which means that others cannot be prevented from consuming it (Samuelson, 1954). Examples of public goods in the context of the food and agricultural system include fundamental knowledge (which may be embodied in agronomic practices); environmental quality; knowledge about food and product safety risks and protection from undue risk; improved dietary health; protection against genuine national food security risks; and knowledge essential to the accomplishment of public goals such as social equity, economic efficiency, and informed public policy making. Public support is also justified for research and development that may eventually have commercial application in the national interest but is too costly, uncertain, or otherwise an unlikely focus for private sector investment. This support is justified so long as the anticipated research outcomes would not undermine public good goals. For instance, integrative or adaptive research supporting producers or consumers of commodities representing small markets for agricultural input suppliers (many fruit, vegetable, and specialty crops) might not be conducted, despite anticipated benefits, without public support. The same is true for most fundamental research (and some fundamental technology development); it carries too much uncertainty for private investment. Figure 2-1 lists conditions that justify public support of food and agricultural system research. In each of the areas identified, public support for research is needed across the FIGURE 2-1 Justifying federal support of agricultural research.

OCR for page 21
--> entire spectrum of the research continuum, from fundamental to disseminated research, and encompassing the role of extension at the integrative, adaptive, and dissemination stages. Federal support is only one element of public support for the U.S. food and agricultural system research. States are presumed to have a particular stake in the support of research that provides public goods within the state (for example, research improving the quality of agriculture-related natural resources unique to and confined within the state) or that differentially improves the welfare of producer groups concentrated within the state but will not be addressed by the private sector. Thus, federal funds for food and agricultural system research and extension should be targeted toward endeavors that meet the criteria for public support but that also provide goods not limited to political boundaries (such as general improvement in nutrition for the increased well-being of citizens) or that cross political boundaries (such as water quality enhancement within a tristate watershed) (Figure 2-1). This suggests, as discussed in ''A New Geography and New Partnerships" (p. 30), the unique importance of federally funded regional research and extension programs. RECOMMENDATION 5. Regular and critical evaluations of federally funded research and extension programs should assess the congruence between such programs to which federal funds are devoted and the provision or enhancement of public goods of regional and national significance. There are several points to emphasize that relate to the use of federal funds to conduct research and extension programs that provide transboundary public goods. First, an allocation based on this principle is broadly consistent with serving the more diverse constituency discussed above. The U.S. public is, in fact, demanding more goods that have these national "public good" characteristics: diet-related health and food safety, sound information about food products, natural resource protection and environmental enhancement, and economic opportunity for small farmers and rural communities (National Research Council, 1995a; Reichelderfer, 1991; Roberts and Smith, 1995). Second, directing federal resources toward the provision of public goods, in an era of constant or declining total federal resources, means redirecting them away from projects and programs that do not meet the criteria. The potential for redirecting public funds is, however, consistent with and significantly enhanced by the larger opportunities for private research in the food and agricultural system. Third, the current priority-setting apparatus has produced priorities consistent with the public goods criteria (see Table 2-1); it is at the output end, in the spirit of the GPRA, where the additional work needs to be done. The Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences reports annually to the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Congress on accomplishments for research, extension, and higher education (see, for example, Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences, 1995). The many accomplishments reported by the Joint Council are indeed noteworthy. However, reporting successes is only a portion of accountability, which also calls for reviewing failures and missed opportunities and developing ideas for continuous improvement.