L 4 Hv I L .D E R N
Agricultural Systems, International Programs &
The Emerging Land Grant System*
by Chris 0. Andrew**
Agriculture Is International
Farmers of the world share a conrn bond. In this age, spanning from poverty to plenty and 100 horsepower tractor culture to hoe culture, the family farm response to risk and approach to security set it apart from many other segments of society. Farmers know how to tighten their belts. They are masters at hedging. Better than any other people they know how to"make do" and have proven their ability to "get by". Many agricultural scientists and policy makers do not understand this socio-agroecological phenomenon.
Agriculture throughout the world is in disarray and for many food security is threatened. As the Africa food crises continues and the situation of chronic food insecurity remains unabated, American agriculture is in disarray. Growing surpluses, heavy farm debts, farm foreclosures, massive farm subsidy costs, weakened demand for US products in world markets, falling land values, and a mis-directed farm policy, which fails to address the complexity of the world agricultural system, exemplify the problem.
Worldwide agricultural disarray is largely due to governments that have allowed industrial concerns to supplant the basic monetary, fiscal and agricultural policy needs of rural societies. In part, as a result of this continuous deterioration, 750 million people in the developing world suffer from chronic food insecurity. In the United States, as a world class agricultural industry staggers from economic distortions, numerous mediumsized and relatively young farm operations, which make major contributions to the world food supply, are stressed to the point of bankruptcy. Young farmers beginning their careers in the 1970s were introduced to an "inflation mentality" that permeated the production and banking system. Now there is great difficulty in adjusting to the need for a "deflation mentality" where overinvestment and high debt-to-asset ratios challenge every management fiber of the modern agriculturalist. As a result, the United States may be left with primarily small farms dependent upon diversified off-farm income sources and large corporate farms subject to inconsistent industrial management behavior to supply domestic and world food needs. The loss of the medium sized farmer will further reduce world food security and even food security in this country where consumers have become complacent.
* Paper presented to the University of Nebraska agricultural faculty December 10, 1985.
** Chris 0. Andrew is Professor of Food & Resource Economics, Associate Director of International Programs, and Director of the USAID Farming Systems Support Project, University of Florida. Comments are those of the author and do not represent the official position of either the University of Florida or FSSP/USAID. Appreciation is expressed to Steve Kearl and Lisette Wlecka for their questions and contributions.
As we link the chronic food insecurity problem in the developing countries with the economic difficulties of farmers in the developed countries, it becomes evident that the world economic order has not
strengthened effective demand for agricultural products, a condition heretofore essential to economic well-being and development. Effective demand by consumers, not competition between farmers of different nations, is the primary problem (Kellogjg, 1985). Experience shows that agricultural development in competing economies stimulates purchasing power and thedemand for the agricultural products in both countries. The more developed country experiences an expanded market because the overall development process both generates capital and creates a demand. (Wennergren, 1985, Nightingale, 1982). ouir present downward economic spiral does nothing to prime the pump for this development process.* The isolationist attitude prescribed by some and vocalized by others in rural America, further exacerbates the problem.
United States agriculture and international agriculture are
inextricably interdependent. (Lewis, 1984). Isolation is not possible in the world food and agricultural system. Nobr is it desirable. The world is the market for US products and the welfare of US agriculture depends upon world demand. Likewise, the world is a resource base from which US agriculture draws a complementary production capability. We gain from the scientific experience of our professionals working in international settings. W gain fron the development of high technology support systems
such as computer hardware and petro-chemically-based farm inputs. W gain in research by drawing upon the world germ plasm base for improving agricultural varieties. And we gain by understanding pest and disease problems through amplified biological control practices that rely on both developing resistant plants and location of pest preditors in a-worldwide
agro-ecolig ical system.
The challenge we face within the land grant system is to keep our
institutions, our faculty and our clientele prepared for rapid evolution within agriculture on a worldwide basis. (Leu, 1984). W are not doing our share in addressing the world food problem as educators and research scientists. Since US agriculture is dependent upon the world econany and
the world environment, we must address this broad spectrum if our faculty is to be responsive to a farmer-client. Land grant universities need to change their supporting institutional structures to survive the wrenching changes necessary in research and education.
Early challenges faced by the land grant system were overcome with
relatively greater ease than we will be able to overcome the present world food security challenge. The complexity of our present challenge, while deserving our undivided attention, does not cane at a time when US concern is for agriculture. Moreover, it canes at a time when the system is concerned with maintaining itself and the status quo more than creatively addressing the international dimensions and global reality of challenging it.
Institutional preparedness has historically emerged through two
completed phases of the land grant system. A third phase is now emerging to address our current dilemmna. Phase I spanned a time period beginning in 1862 with the Morill Act followed by the Hatch Act (1887) and then the Smith-Lever Act (1914) establishing respectively the teaching, research and extension capabilities of the land grant system. This rich history deserves attention in our educational proxgrammning. However, many of our younger faculty and students are not even exposed to this history tracing this country's establislinent of a general focus on agriculture and agronomy.
Phase II began with the need for more disc ipl ine-specif ic teaching, research and problem solving for the farmer-client. Thus, as farm management spun-off from agronomy in the 1920s and later became agricultural economics, agronomy differentiated into various disciplinary activities including horticulture, field crops, plant protection, soil science, and others. The animal sciences emerged as another set of disciplinary concerns along with veterinary medicine. In most instances the development of the disciplines was fairly complete and well-accomplished over the 50 year period extending fram 1914 to 1965. The necessity of this Phase II activity is apparent. Successful development of various hybrid varieties and other breakthroughs in agricultural production (that extended from US agriculture to a green revolution for sane) can be attributed to discipline and subdiscipline specificity. The world class nature of US agriculture has its underpinnings in Phase II activity of the land grant system. We can take great pride in a major contribution to education, research, and extension in that effort.
Following phase II, however, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it became obvious that-the overall agricultural environments, moving from national to international dimensions was more complex than had been previously understood. Interactions with the urban sector relative to environmental results of agriculture's dependence on petro-chemicals, became a point of conflict. Internationalization of agricultural markets created concerns stemmning fram major distortions in the distribution of wealth and income throughout the world. Similarly it became evident that,
for many scientific and production advances, the technology development process needed to take full measure of the farm system in systematically-oriented terms.
Phase III of land grant evolution can be addressed from the perspective of a systems orientation. Assuming with continued investment the base is sound in disciplinary work, the future needs to be tailored to meet broad-based problem-solving concerns in large part not previously encountered by agricultural researchers or policy makers. As the land grant system moved fran its general agronomic base in the 1920s to disciplines and sub-disciplines for specialized problem solving, the focus tended to be on conniodity research.
A recent move from the carITdity research base has been in the
direction of cropping systems research including various crop combinations.
Ccxnnodity and cropping systems research continue to provide the basis for agronomic input f ran research institutions and research stations into the
The whole farm system, however, includes crop, intercrop and livestock enterprises within the content of a farm household managed by both men and women. In the dynamic agriculture of today' s world all of these interrelated farm enterprises need to be considered. Te~chnologjy generation and production improvements relating to numerous mixed crop and livestock systems and family concerns is termed farming systems research.
OCi a global scale, the farming system, while more comprehensive than cropping systems or single commodities as units of analysis, is also insufficient to address the total concern of the agricultural sector.
Agricultural systems research, focused on the agricultural sector as a whole, demands attention if agricultural policy is to help realign distortions now experienced in world agriculture.
The institutional challenge of Phase III for accomplishing
interdisciplinary research and education is extended to land grant administators who have responsibility for agricultural research, extension,
and education. Your faculties of agriculture today respond to different drummners than those of their predecessors. They respond primarily to the
leadership given by the national association in their particular discipline. It is the members and heads of those "great societies" who
command the attention of your agricultural faculty. The great societies include, among others, the disciplines of agricultural economics, animal
science, agronomy and entomology. Faculties are mobile from one university to another with a dedication to their professions and societies that exceeds and sometimes effectively excludes carrnittrnent to the individual state's agricultural concerns.
Presently multi-disciplinary problem solving for a client takes second seat to research and education systems driven by discipline and peeroriented professional societies. This indirectly but pervasively skews the reward system for scientists and educators, further emphasizing exclusivity
in achieving for the profession. As "prof essionalism" replaces scholarly scientific application in the land grant system, we forego the early pragmatic ability of agricultural colleges to confront society's problems frame. a vocational vantage point. As this institutional drift prevails US
agriculture' s most important inputs-human resources, and research resultsare increasingly less prepared to address the holistic nature of even the most carrercial mono-crop farms, let alone diversified farming systems. This situation, coupled with staggering market and political problems, leads to the conclusion that educational institutions in the US have not
kept pace with the changing econanic environment (Ed Schuh 1984).
Thus, the concern for the Phase III land grant institution is to
prepare faculty for work in 1) commrodity specialties, 2) cropping systems,
3) farming systems, and 4) agricultural systems. Without an international perspective Phase III will not achieve the success of Phase II. This is
recognized by the Title XII legislation (York, 1984). The challenge before land grant institutions is how well their agricultural scientists. grasp international agriculture and place domestic problems in that context.
our faculty and students are hardly prepared to face the challenges of
twenty-first century agriculture. How many of your faculty and students, if they have not experienced farming first-hand, have received a
sufficiently broad agricultural education to understand some of the whole farm and whole sector problems challenging our clientele today? How often do your molecular biologists work with a plant or your agricultural economists with a farmer? These questions deserve consideration because
they challenge the very viability of US agriculture and our land grant system.
Agriculture is holistic by nature. It deserves careful attention to
detail but also an understanding of how detail impacts upon the whole. We are challenged to perform as an interdisciplinary faculty by drawing from a multidisciplinary base to address problem solving from the perspective of a farmer, the ultimate interdisciplinarian. To accomplish this task we need faculty who are solidly based in their disciplines but moved to interdisciplinary action beyond the scope of their disciplines. Experience for whole farm research and education must be gained not only in the US but also in other developed and the less developed countries.
PHASE III METHODOLOGY
Commodity research searches for quicker and more direct means to develop plants capable of increased production under more stressful environments. Genetic engineering provides an opportunity to accelerate
the breeding process. Comnodity research through genetic engineering must consider three necessary conditions:
1) Bio-technology research requires careful and well-thought-out
research investments. Even though bio-technology applications promise an opportunity to save considerable time in the commodity research process this means there are numerous options for which funding might be well
placed. Bio-technology research must receive scrutiny to follow paths that contribute to product not just science, and then a connittment to resources necessary to see it through.
2) Bio-technology research cannot succeed unless it is accompanied by the less glamorous field testing of results. This testing must have a farmer orientation in the research and include a feedback mechanism soliciting new biological material that is condusive to farmer use. If this is not done, bio-technology research will not yield consistently
acceptable results to farmers.
3) Bio-technology research must rely on development of well-attended
genetic material holdings from throughout the world. This means maintaining an expanding international germ plasm pool to keep from losing species that may potentially provide breeding material to solve major difficulties. As plant genes are altered there will be a need for a full complement of special characteristics found in sane traditionally low yielding plants located in various countries of the world. Likewise germ
plasn culled from a temperate zone as inferior may contain desirable traits necessary for harsher or different environments.
Fundamental commrodity research is necessary and will continue. It will be a reason for increased discipline specificity.
Equally important is adaptive research. Adaptive research brings
results of that basic science orientation to test by farmers in a two way process that ultimately leads to adoption. Unless this is accomplished, high-tech approaches will continue to disassociate people in agricultural science from the specific food production problem. What follows directly from this disassociation are fundamental resource use problems that distract researchers from goals of effective food production and distribution. High-tech agriculture, with specialized science, needs
"high-touch" adaptation by researchers and farmers if effective resource conserving technology development is to further augment production.
Those that do fundamental and applied research must develop a greater capability for interdisciplinary work and a better understanding of the problems for which their research is directed. In a similar way, the degree of discipline specificity that now emerges with genetic engineering, calls for attention to multidisciplinary interaction or basic research itself will not be an effective base for technology development.
Cropping Systems Research
Cropping systems research involves various multi-cropping,
interplanting and tillage techniques. The crop interaction rendering best resource use is considered along with complemnentarity in nutrient development and use, plant protection, resource conservation and other beneficial associations. While study of the interaction of plants in a given ecological environment is increasingly necessary, the movement toward discipline and commodity specific activity has reduced interest in cropping systems research. Good cropping systems research scientists are good general agronomists. But there are fewer and fewer general agronomists available. Most cropping systems research is less professionally rewarding in educational systems where rewards are based on delivery of research products to a professional society of peers.
Farming Systems Research
Farming systems research is concerned with the notion that farm men
and women are rational decision makers and influence the overall production system in a manner that is not entirely obvious from a cropping systems perspective. TIhe farmer works within a holistic system inclusive of cropping systems combinations, livestock and other subsystem linkages that constrain managerial and labor time. In this framework the farm household embodies a multiple set of objectives that influence productivity.
Individual farm systems differ but generally ccnmun characteristics are identifiable that provide a basis for farmer oriented research with a group of farmers. This involvement allows for incorporation of farm-level input into cropping systems and comodity based research so that the results will be -acceptable to resolve production constraints. This farmer-involved
technology development and adaptation activity generally includes:
1. Diagnosis Identifies problems in specific systems.
2. Design -Generates alternative solutions to specific problem.
3. Testing -Tests tentative solutions under farm conditions.
4. Evaluation Evaluates acceptability of selected solutions.
5.* Extension Promotes use of acceptable technology.
This integrating process requires interaction between social and
biological scientists. Multidisciplinary teams are not always necessary for this research. It is necessary that the research scientist or team display a socio-cultural capability along with a crop-livestock capability. Not every scientist will have all of these tools but every scientist should be trained to generally understand the importance of this complementary process (Kline, 1984) The continuum from a basic corrmzxity research approach to an on-farm farming systems research orientation includes varied
proportions in the social science/biological science ratio. The American Society of Agronomy is to be congratulated for emphasizing integrated approaches to multidisciplinary research and education through special sessions and annual meetings. Just last week, the ASA approved a Production Agriculture Journal as a place for applied agriculture researchers of all disciplines to publish.
Farming systems research extends beyond the overall and general
orientation presently within the land grant system. The capability and capacity for this activity lies within the system itself and I have every confidence that it will emerge fully. Nevertheless, a concerted effort is required to bring forth the necessary multidisciplinarity with a systems focus on farms. It is not a question of farming systems research in place
of the more fundamental connodity and cropping systems foci, but one of sufficient balance to provide for development of technology that has an ability to nurture and augment our agricultural capability.
Agricultural systems research suggests an approach or methodology in a holistic consideration of the agricultural sector. It is more than macro-economics and it is more than an overall agro-ecosystems perspective (Bawden 1985). It integrates the major concerns of an agricultural sector in such a way that conceptually the "complex" constraints and stresses can be considered to reduce the prolonged impact of orientation to short-term and "simple" problems. The approach calls for a basic agricultural resource use strategy. Presently there is no basic resource use strategy of adequacy in the world with which ecological decline might
be abated. This could occur, however, if agricultural systems concepts were applied to policy making for the total agricultural sector within the national context.
Disciplines and commodity interests have directly contributed to
specialized agricultural policy with little concern for impacts on the entire system. This may explain why agricultural policy is failing internationally and nationally as a guide to agricultural research and
development and ultimately food security. Specialized policy making ignores the political/normative base and results in serious means/ends ,conflicts that are devastating to further advances in agricultural
production. As the normative base of an agricultural system and its implications are ignored, problems such as those resulting from overemphasis on pesticides set the stage for an environmentally disturbed situation that ultimately results in policy detrimental to food production.
Specialization at the farm level adds another twist to our concern. Onie might expect that specialized agricultural production -in a monocrop enterprise context would accanzxiate greater specialization in research and less concern for either the farming system or the overall agriculture system. Unfortunately this is not true. These specialized farming systems contain numerous complex subsystems that are necessary for agricultural production in a monocrop environment. There are increasingly complex family related concerns through the household itself and the overall economic system that impinge on the farming system. These are evident today as medium sized US farmers are challenged in their very existence.
Finally, specialized farms no longer have a political power base. As groups they usually are weak and when amalgamated within an agricultural system that must respond competitively with powerful national interest groups, their concerns, if heard, are overlooked. The traditional approach to agricultural policy formulation is becoming less functional. The agricultural systems approach to policy formulation will help integrate salient connon needs and permit agricultural policy to more fully consider the issues of food security.
wnile this discussion of caniodity, cropping system, farming system, and agricultural system based research and policy does not go into methodological detail, the intent is to conceptually demonstrate a need for broader based orientation within the overall approach of the land grant system. one of the leading indicators of assistance as we move toward a more responsive institutional structure to include these four activities,
is the strength of the interface between international and domestic programs for faculty development and institutional responsibility.
Phase III; The International/Domestic Program
It is appropriate to think through again the interface between each of the levels in the agricultural research and development approach discussed abo~ve. Com-noity research provides an opportunity for the exchange of germ plasm on an international basis. In most instances the origin of plants grown in the US is not the US itself. (York, 1984). The genetic ancestors of our crops maintain resistance to sane of our local disease and pest problems. 1% must return to those plants, preserve the germ plasm and utilize their best traits to strengthen our plants for production under various kinds of stressed environments. The Sorghum Millet CIRSP managed by the University of Nebraska has taken advantage of these ccrrnodity opportunities. There are numerous examples throughout the US of such activity for essentially every crop that is grown. Many of the preditors that might assist with both disease and pest control are found in other countries with environments similar to those of the US. Bringing .the entire preditor family together often can reduce the need for expensive control measures that influence the farm and the fanning system as well as the agricultural sector and the agricultural system.
Cropping systems research can also benefit f rom. international
observation. Crop combinations and practices that have been underway for years, even centuries, provide useful guidelines about the complementary
role plants play in specific eco-systems. Even no-till research and standard rotation production practices rely upon careful consideration of cropping systems practices. Without major investments it is possible to see sane of these combinations working on some of the smallest and poorest farms in the world.
Farming systems themselves entail a nuTxner of internationally
exchangeable guides. The practices of farmers in the division of labor and with risk aversion offer similarities even as economic and size boundaries are crossed. The rationale and practice becomes the critical dynamic basis for understanding how people can respond and survive under adverse
agricultural situations. Practices under various kinds of production constraints can influence the type of research necessary in the development
of technologies and production potentials in given agro-ecolcxjical systems.
Agricultural systems encompasses serious challenges. that influence
agriculture through policy, trade, economics and politics, to name a few. If we learn f ran these distresses, whether man-made or otherwise, we can better fine-tune national agricultural systems and share these experiences as alternative considerations for agricultural development.
it is not a question of whether international agricultural programs and international involvements will contribute to Phase III of the land grant system. Rather it is a question of how the system evolves and successfully achieves domestic ends within an international environment. The University, the State, and the Nation are necessarily international. we must view the land grant system as one that operates within an international environment. It might also be viewed as one that focuses upon an international clientele as a set in a way that is complementary to the needs of the national clientele subsets.
phase III; The Land Grant System
The role and responsibility of the land grant system changes little as
we enter Phase III. The challenge to fulfill that role and responsibility however, is unprecedented. Given the successes in Phase I and Phase II there is a natural feeling that the system will evolve to accomplish this challenge without major distortion or threat. We must not be so complacent. Major professional and institutional distortions are upon us and an unprecedented challenge to the overall land grant system is emerging. I 'firmly believe in the land grant system; I was raised on a farm and have worked within that system my entire life. Nevertheless, I am alarmed because land grant universities are relinquishing to disc ipl ine-oriented societies the responsibility and trust in leading faculty. This shakes the land grant system to its very foundation.
Research and technology development should be refocused on the client. But who is the client? ou~r client is within the food and fiber system generally embodying producers, consumers and all -supporting elements between the two groups. It is not our professional peer groups. The peer group is a means to an end to be sure but when the peer group becomes our
client we have mixed our means and ends objectives. The land grant system is far-reaching. The clients of your work are both the Nebraskan and Morrocan farmers as well as sorghum and millet producers throughout the world. These farmers can benefit from your research and the resulting income stimulates econanic development and further effective demand for farm products. This process leads to food security.
A reconsideration of focus in agricultural education is absolutely necessary. Educational programs and institutions convey knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and norms. How is the land grant system doing in socializing its output to support the broad spectrum of societal needs in the US and the world? Is the land grant system missing the political dynamics of the day and overlooking its own role and responsibility? Education is a political matter. In a normative context agricultural education influences not only our human resources but how we use our natural resources. Educational institutions are political because they use financial resources themselves.
Here lies our achille's heel.
;%L have a responsibility to train policy makers for the future. We must train policy scientists-and policy makers to deal with the agricultural sector. Is our current stock of knowledge adequate to this task or have we avoided keeping up with the normative and systems bases of our agricultural sector? We must train policy scientists to help with problem solving but how well are we doing in training people for responsible broad-based problem solving? In sane instances we act as if agricultural scientists do not have responsibility for the resulting decisions that emanate from their research. Every scientist down to the most specific specialization has a responsibility to work in an environment
that is not value-f ree. organizational goals must be clarified such that the land grant system can point toward future education and research needs. Wiile these goals are not clear at present to our scientists and students it behooves us to help make those goals clear. They are the basis for Phase III of the land grant system.
The potential of the land grant institution lies in its ability to
incorporate international involvement with the domestic setting because we operate daily in an international arena. Some closing principles apply to integrated international and domestic agricultural research and education. They are the need to:
1. Identify change in the farm community in a socio-political context
and relate that back to commodity oriented agricultural research and development.
2. Place agricultural production in a total resource use context based
upon a strategy that involves agriculture the world over as well as in the US.
3. Identify detailed farm policy but within an agricultural system that contributes to a resource use strategy and to overall production potentials and goals.
4. Identify the cormodity/discipline oriented action that is necessary to support farming systems and agricultural systems.
5. Give farmers a direct role in identifying the farm system, its constraints, and finally, in testing technology to overcome those constraints.
6. Recognize that ours is a farmer-client driven system.
7. Balance responsibility between land grant institutions and professional societies such that:
faculty contribute to client oriented problem solving,
from a multi disciplinary university environment,
with integrity to reward those contibuting to the necessary
interdisciplinary research and education product.
Bawden, Richard. "Systems Agriculture: A State of The Art Assessment." Hawkesbury Agriculture College, Rechmond N.S.W. Australia, 1985.
Kellog, Earl. "University Involvement in International Agricultural Development Activities: Important Issues for Public Education." AUSUDIAP Proceedings May 29-31, 1985.
Kline, Wesley. "Agronomic and Sociological Interaction in Field Research." Farming Systems Support Project Newslettter, University of Florida, Vol 3 No 4, 1985.
Leu, Larry, et. al. "Michigan Agriculture and its Linkages to Developing Nations." Institute of International Agriculture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 1984.
Lewis, Lowell. "Research and Agricultural Trade: A paper prepared for the Experiment Station Conmittee on Organization and Policy 1984".
Communication Resources and the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1984.
Nightingale, Ray W. et. al. "U. S. Foreign Assistance to Agriculture: A Proposed Redirection." International Economics Division, ERS/USDA. ERS staff Report No. GE 820514, May, 1982 pp 32-34.
Schuh, G. Edward. "Revitalizing the Land Grant University." Presented at Colloquim, Strategic Management Research Center, University of Minnesota,
September 28, 1984.
Shaner, W.W., P. F. Phillips and W. R. Schmehl. Farming Systems Research
and Development: Guidelines for Developing Countries. Wstview Press/Boulder, Colorado, 1982.
Wennergren, Boyd E. "The United States and World Agricultural Development." The consortium for International Cooperation in Higher Education CICHE, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, 1985, p 32.
York, E.T. "A Major International Dimension for US. Colleges of Agriculture an Imperative ." Seaman A. Knapp Memorial Lecture, Annual Meeting of National Association of State Universities and land-Grant colleges, Denver, Colorado, November 12, 1984.