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Title: Academia needs a new covenant for serving agriculture
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Title: Academia needs a new covenant for serving agriculture
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Publication Date: July, 1984
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
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        Title Page 2
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Full Text

Needs A New Covenant
For Serving Agriculture

Glenn L. Johnson
Michigan State University


Glenn L. Johnson
Michigan State University

In this paper I look at what we should expect from
U.S. agriculture in the next fifty years and at the
assistance U.S. agriculture will need if it is to achieve
what is expected. This will reveal magnificent oppor-
tunities for universities to help solve the practical agri-
cultural problems in this period. I stress the impor-
tance of helping solve practical problems for agricul-
ture with an examination of problem solving processes
including attention to the roles of power and covenants
among holders of power in making decisions. I then
look at some of the internal divisions of universities
which interfere with their capacity to serve agricul-
ture. My examination of these divisions reveals that,
unfortunately, the universities and their closely linked
governmental agencies have now exported the divisions
to congressional sources of financial and political
support. This reveals a need for a new covenant among
the factions of academia to be extended after estab-
lishment to governmental sources of support. Because
this lecture was originally delivered at Mississippi State
University which appears. to have a desirable local
covenant, I close the paper with some attention to the
situation there; however in so doing, I recognize that
the local Mississippi covenant is threatened by the lack
of a nationwide covenant.

What We Can Reasonably Expect from
U.S. Agriculture by 2030

We can gain some perspective on the next half
century by looking back over the last century. Figure 1
shows that we increased agricultural output about
sevenfold from 1880 to 1980 with a major part of that
increase occurring since the end of World War II. The
increases have been due to technological advances, and
to major improvements in both public and private
institutions serving agriculture (Johnson and Wittwer,
forthcoming) and particularly to the generation of more
highly skilled and educated people to handle high tech-
nology on our increasingly sophisticated farms and to
staff and operate the institutions serving agriculture.

A report to Resources for the Future by Sylvan
Wittwer and me deals with desirable increases in the

capacity of U.S. agriculture to produce over the next 50
years. We concluded that the U.S. should have as a
target the doubling of capacity to produce a more stable
level of agricultural products. Having such capacity
does not necessarily mean that we would actually use all
of it. We conclude that we need such capacity for a
number of reasons. World population is increasing
rapidly. We see a possible need to use agricultural
biomass as a source of fuel and as an industrial
feedstock. We also see a need to earn foreign exchange
through the export of agricultural products in order to
pay for essential imports including, especially, fossil
fuels. As the agriculture of other developed countries
are improving rapidly, we believe we must increase our
own capacity in order to keep U.S. agriculture
competitive in world markets. There is also a matter of
national food security for the U.S. and for our Allies.

Figure 2 tells us something about what will be
needed to double our capacity to produce agricultural
products in the next 50 years. We will probably need to
increase our achievable average yields around 70 per-
cent -- in the case of corn our target should probably be
one of doubling achievable yields per acre. We assume a
population increase in the U.S. of 35 percent. During
the next 50 years we anticipate the virtual elimination
of stoop labor from U.S. agriculture but see a substantial
expansion in the use of highly skilled labor to handle
increasingly complex more technical machinery, land
management schemes and potentially dangerous
chemicals on our farms. We also anticipate a need for
much greater marketing and agribusiness skills and for
highly skilled people working in public and private
research, educational and other agencies servicing
agriculture. Along with the 70 percent increase in
achievable yields, we anticipate a possible 25 percent
increase in the intensity with which land will be farmed.
We also anticipate a possible 16 percent, or roughly a
60 million acre, increase in the amount of cultivated
land. Much of the additional land to be farmed will
include fragile soils which will require complex,
advanced land management programs and technologies to
prevent erosion and other deterioration of our land and
water resources. Though not shown in Figure 2, it is

*Originally delivered as a university-wide lecture entitled "Difficulties Experienced by Academia in Serving
Agriculture," Mississippi State University, April 16, 1984. This paper has benefitted greatly since then from comments
by Michigan State University colleagues: James Anderson, Dean, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; James
Bonnen, Professor of Agricultural Economics; John Cantlon, Vice President for Research; Robert Gast, Director,
Agricultural Experiment Station; and, Sylvan Wittwer, Director Emeritus, Agricultural Experiment Station. Many
helpful clarifying suggestions have been incorporated. However, a few comments and suggestions have not been used
as the author, who alone remains responsible for this document, disagreed with them or judged them inappropriate or
at variance with what he (the author) intends. Nonetheless, all comments and the efforts involved in making them
were greatly appreciated.







Linked indices (converted to
1947.49 base) from Frederick
Strauss and Louis Sean. Gross
S Farm Income and Indices at
S Firm Production and Prices in
the United States 1869-1937.
USOA Technical Bulletin NO
703. Oecemnaer 1940 for 180-
1909: Raloh Loonms and Glen
a rton. Productivity of Aggcul.
ue. USOA Technical Suleain
NO. 1238. April 1961 for 1910.
55. Agrncultlurl Statistics 1967
a. 546 for 1956-64: Agercultura
Statistics 1980. p. 440 for 1965.-
77: and Agricultru-i Outloor.
ERS. USOA. 0ecemrner 1982.
a. 26 for 1978.82.





Figure 1. Index of the Volume of Agricultural Production, 1880-1982




" 150

100 L.

1990 2000 2010 2020

Figure 2. Desirable Changes in Capacity to Produce, Yields, Cropping Intensity and Acreage Farmed
Along With Population Projections, U.S. Agriculture, 1980-2030




noted again that the next 50 years will see the need for
greatly improved public and private institutions to
serve agriculture.

The Contributions of the Academic World to
Agriculture in the Next Half Century

In addition to training agricultural scientists,
farmers, government administrators, agribusiness per-
sonnel, leaders and academicians, the academic world
will have three major kinds of contributions to make to
agricultural development in the next 50 years. They
are the same general contributions it made to the
phenomenal expansion in agricultural production of the
last 50 years or so.

First, the academic world will do problem-solving
(PS) research and carry out PS activities for agricul-
ture. By PS, I mean research or activities designed to
solve a particular practical problem for a decision
maker who faces that particular practical problem in
the world beyond academia. PS research and activities
are multidisciplinary and multidepartmental.

The second kind of research and activity which
has and will be carried out in the academic world is
what I refer to as subject-matter (SM) research or
activities. I define SM activities as those designed to
produce multidisciplinary information on a subject
important to a fairly well-defined group of important
decision makers facing a fairly well-defined set of
important problems. An example of SM research would
be multidisciplinary research to provide multidisci-
plinary and multidepartmental information on energy
which would be useful to Mississippi Delta farmers
producing cotton. Such information would probably not
be adequate to solve any one problem faced by any one
farmer; however, it would be useful to a large number
of Delta cotton farmers facing problems involving the
utilization of energy. Agronomy, animal husbandry,
agricultural engineering, horticultural and agricultural
economics departments are typically multidisciplinary
SM departments. They are more like institutes than
traditional disciplines.

A third kind of activity carried out by universities
is the development and dissemination of disciplinary
(DISC) knowledge. DISC knowledge is knowledge which
improves one of the traditional basic disciplines such as
chemistry, physics, economics and biology by improving
its theory, its fundamental measurements and its tech-
niques as well as improving its ancillary disciplines such
as statistics, mathematics and philosophy. Though not
all DISC research is relevant to agriculture some of it
is known to be relevant to the solution of agricultural
problems. It is mainly this latter kind of DISC research
which is of concern in this lecture.

While some have argued that we will have less
need for publicly-supported research on agriculture in
universities and governmental agencies in the decades
ahead because such research will be done in the private
sector, we anticipate that additional efforts will be
required from both private and public agencies includ-
ing, particularly, the universities. Not all publicly
desirable technologies will turn out to be privately
profitable. If privately unprofitable but socially de-
sirable technologies are to be developed and utilized, it
will be necessary for the public to support their devel-
opment and distribute them at least to where it is
privately advantageous for agribusinesses to take them
over and for farmers to use them. Still further, there

will be some technologies which it will be so easy for
private businesses to appropriate benefits that public
action will be required to prevent exploitation of
farmers and/or consumers. In still other instances it will
be so easy and privately advantageous to impose
damages on others that the public will have to regulate
utilization (Schmid, forthcoming). Further, some tech-
nological advances permit and others are generated for
purposes of concentrating power in agriculture and
agribusiness in manners inconsistent with the public good
(Mueller, et al., 1982; Schertz and others, 1979). Thus,
there will be many instances in the next 50 years in
which the public should support research on problems of
technological change and in which public action will have
to be taken. Technological change, education and
institutional development for agriculture cannot be
safely left entirely to the private sector.

Problem Solving Processes, Power Covenants,
Kinds of Knowledge and Philosophic Orientations

When we think of the above three kinds of research
and activities, we see that the PS, SM and relevant DISC
activities of universities are all related to the practical
problems of agriculturists and those dependent on
agriculture outside the academic world. The concern in
this paper is with how the academic world will serve or
fail to serve the needs of the public and private decision
makers who will be involved in doubling and stabilizing
productive capacity by solving the practical problems of
agriculture in the next 50 years. Thus, it is necessary
here to focus on the process of solving practical
problems. For this reason I want to look at PS processes
in enough detail to see more clearly (1) how the
academic world assists in solving practical agricultural
problems and (2) the importance of covenants among the
holders of power.

Figure 3 is a diagram of PS processes (Johnson,
1977). This somewhat abstract diagram views problem
solving as involving six different steps proceeding from
problem definition at the top through observation and
analysis to decision making and on. In the diagram, a
decision as to what is the right action to take to solve a
problem is followed by its execution and the bearing of
responsibility for the consequences of the action taken.

Figure 3

There are two information banks in Figure 3
which contain perceptions and attitudes about what is
true. On the left-hand side is a normative information
bank containing knowledge and perceptions about
values -- about the goodness and badness of conditions,
situations and things -- as well as some prescriptive
knowledge about how to solve standard problems
(recipes), laws, regulations, and social mores and norms.
Knowledge about values is needed in at least three
tenses -- the past, present and future or predictive. On
the other side of the diagram is a positive information
bank containing information, perceptions and attitudes
about conditions, situations and things other than about
their goodness and badness and rightness and wrongness.
This information is also needed in the past, present and
future (3ohnson, et al., 1961; Lerohl, 1972; Begg, 1982)
tenses. Problems are defined with information from
the two information banks as- situations subject to
possible improvement through greater attainment of
goodness and/or the avoidance or alleviation of badness.
As the diagram is drawn, the two information banks can
be viewed as either independent of or dependent on
each other. Because there are pragmatists who argue
that information about values and positive information
are interdependent in the context of the problem being
solved, an over-arching loop recognizes the possibility
of a pragmatic interdependence between the two kinds
of knowledge (Runes, 1961, pp. 245f).

Making Decisions, Decision-making Rules, Power
Distributions and Covenants: -- I turn now to more
specific consideration of the decision making step in
solving a problem. The outcome of decision making is a
prescription. A prescription indicates "what ought to
be done" to solve a problem at hand. Prescriptions deal
with "what is right" and, by implication, "what is
wrong" to do. They are. based on both information
about values and positive information. These two kinds
of information may or may not be viewed as inter-
dependent depending on whether or not the viewer has a
pragmatic orientation.

In order to derive a prescription from the two
kinds of information, a decision rule is required. Under
perfect knowledge and foresight the decision rule is
simple. One merely subtracts goods from bads for all
alternative actions and decides to do that act for which
the excess of goodness over badness is maximized or
the excess of badness over goodness is minimized.
However, information is never perfect and perfect
information, often viewed as reserved for God and the
abstract economic man of static economic theory, is
infinitely expensive for mere persons. Because of
imperfections in knowledge and the resulting disagree-
ments about solutions, the decision rule ordinarily in-
volves a distribution of power in order to reconcile
differences among concerned persons who disagree
about values and positive knowledge (Arrow, 1963).

There are many distributions of power which
affect different kinds of decisions in agriculture. Dis-
tributions of political, market, military, police, social
and religious powers are important. The distribution of
knowledge is, itself, a distribution of power. When
distributions of power become diffuse, poorly under-
stood and unstable, decision making becomes chaotic
and is delayed. Bonnen has written about the conse-
quences of diffuse power for decisions about Federal
data systems (1977). To speed up and stabilize decision
making, covenants are required among holders of power
about how power is to be used in making decisions.

It is particularly important to understand that the
power distributions involved in the decisions currently
being made about agricultural research policies are now
diffuse, poorly understood, devisive and in need of
clarification and reorganization into a new covenant.
The present USDA/land-grant university covenant has
lost its effectiveness as it does not adequately cover
those doing agriculturally relevant research outside land-
grant universities, outside colleges of agriculture in
land-grant universities and in the private sector. We
need an expanded covenant to improve the decisions
which will be made on agricultural research and service
policies as they will affect our capacity to double and
stabilize agricultural production in the next 50 years.
Later I will give additional specific attention to estab-
lishing such a covenant.

Three Kinds of Knowledge: -- If we think back to
Figure 3, we see that three kinds of knowledge are
involved in solving problems. The academic world can
provide some of all three of these kinds of knowledge to
agriculture's decision makers.

There is positive knowledge. By positive knowl-
edge I mean knowledge about conditions, situations and
things in the real world other than about their goodness
and badness. The so-called hard sciences in universities
and elsewhere are particularly effective in generating
positive knowledge.

Another kind of knowledge generated in universi-
ties is normative knowledge which includes knowledge
about values. By knowledge about values, I mean
knowledge about the goodness and badness of conditions,
situations and things -- intrinsic or extrinsic,
instrumental or more ultimate, monetary or non-mone-
tary, and aesthetic or less aesthetic. Normative knowl-
edge also includes some prescriptive knowledge including
that expressed as recipes, laws, regulations, social mores
and norms which may not be specific about the problem
under consideration.

We have already discussed the meaning of pre-
scriptive knowledge -- knowledge about what ought, and
by implication, what ought not to be done in order to
solve a specific problem. Prescriptive knowledge is not
the same as knowledge about values. It is not always
right to do that which is good if something still better
can be done without utilizing more resources in order to
do it. Conversely, it is sometimes right to do that which
is bad if it is the least bad that can be done among
known alternatives. In some instances, the right decision
involves maximizing net gains and in other instances the
minimization of net losses. Prescriptive knowledge is
almost unavoidably multidisciplinary.

Philosophic Orientations: -- There are many
philosophic orientations in universities which affect
ability to produce positive knowledge, knowledge about
values and prescriptive knowledge. We will look at three
of these orientations briefly in order to understand some
of the difficulties the academic world encounters in
helping solve the poblems of agriculture.

Logical positivism provides the orientation for
much of the work done in the so-called hard sciences and
in the multidisciplinary, physical science departments of
colleges of agriculture. It also orients some of the work
of social scientists. Logical positivism places great
reliance on experience and logic (Runes, 1961). It is
particularly effective in providing methods

to produce positive information in tne so-called hard
sciences. While it is of some use in describing values
held by various groups of people, it takes the position
that it is impossible to know what "really does or does
not have value" in the real world. As such, this
philosophic orientation limits the problem definition
and problem solving capacity of its practitioners.

Philosophically there is also a normative orienta-
tion in the academic world. This orientation is often
practiced in the arts, humanities and some of the social
sciences (including economics) where the concern is
with the nature of goodness and badness-and, for that
matter, rightness and wrongness. This philosophic
orientation supports the generation of information
about values and the development of decision rules and
prescriptions to solve agricultural problems.

A pragmatic orientation was touched upon earlier
in discussing the "pragmatic loop" of Figure 3. In
pragmatism, the truth of a proposition depends upon its
consequence including especially its consequences when
used in problem solving (Runes, 1961). The pragmatic
orientation is particularly concerned with practical
problems and their solutions. The research and views of
personnel in colleges of education are often based upon
a pragmatic orientation. Pragmatic educators are
particularly interested in teaching PS processes to
those they educate. The pragmatic orientation of the
colleges of education also tends to orient such agricul-
tural educators and organizations as extension workers,
vocational agriculture teachers and the 4-H, Future
Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of Ameri-
ca clubs. Other professional schools and colleges
(medicine, engineering, business administration, archi-
tecture, etc.) with their interests in problem solving
often have a pragmatic orientation.

Interrelationships Among Kinds of Activities,
Kinds of Knowledge and Philosophic Orientations

At this point, it seems advantageous to use a
diagram to summarize some of what has been stated
above with respect to the activities and orientations of
universities. Figure 4 presents a cube for this purpose.
On the vertical dimension of this cube, we find the
kinds of research and activities discussed earlier --
disciplinary, subject-matter and problem-solving. On

Figure 4

one horizontal dimension, we find the three philosophic
orientations which we discussed -- positivism, norma-
tivism and pragmatism. On the other horizontal dimen-
sion, we find the three kinds of knowledge generated in a
university -- positive knowledge, knowledge about values
and prescriptive knowledge. In a sense, then, this cube
presents a structural view of what goes on in a
university. Study of it indicates much about the ability
of the universities to serve the practical decision makers
of agriculture and the other sectors interacting with
agriculture as they participate in the PS processes
diagrammed in Figure 3.

The Academic World and Its Sources of
Support are Split by Chauvinisms Which
Reduce Ability to Serve Agriculture

As I see it, our universities are now badly split
internally by loyalties and chauvinisms. These splits
reduce the ability of universities to serve the agricul-
tural decision makers of- the non-academic world.
Further, and very unfortunately, we in the universities
have now transferred these splits to our sources of
political and financial support. These splits now en-
danger public support for (1) the agricultural work of not
only the USDA and land-grant college system, but
(2) much needed agriculturally relevant DISC work out-
side colleges of agriculture in land-grant universities and
in non-land-grant universities.

I will refer to the causes of the splits just discussed
as academic chauvinisms. The dictionary defines
chauvinism as "undue, especially invidious attachment or
partiality for a group or place to which one belongs or
has belonged." This definition of chauvinism is almost a
definition of bias. Chauvinism or bias -- it makes little
difference which we call it -- is both anti-intellectual
and out of place in universities. Though neither should
have legitimate places in the academic world, our views
on serving agriculture are now divided by our
chauvinisms -- by our "undue, invidious attachments" to:

(1) philosophic orientations
(2) disciplines
(3) land-grant agricultural colleges with heavy
stress on production
(4) non-land-grant universities
(5) narrowly defined concepts of academic ex-
cellence, and
(6) anti- and pro-administrative positions.

In the pages to follow, I look at each of these chauvin-
isms to increase our understanding of them.

We should note that each chauvinism has its
strengths and weaknesses. Their strengths account for
the continued existence of each chauvinism. On the
other hand, it is the weaknesses of each which makes it
chauvinistic to hold to it to the exclusion of contribu-
tions from the others. Thus, it is unlikely that any of
those things to which we devote undue partiality will be
entirely eliminated. Instead, our challenge is one of
understanding their strengths and weaknesses so that we
can more objectively avoid the latter while exploiting
the former.

Philosophic Chauvinism: -- This chauvinism can
exist in many forms. I am concerned here mainly with
the chauvinisms of logical positivism, normativism and

Of the three, I believe that the chauvinism of
logical positivism does the most damage to our ability
to serve agriculture by elevating the pursuit of positive
knowledge as a dominant academic end while deni-
grating the pursuit of knowledge about values crucial to
problem definition and solution as "unscientific" and
unobjectivee" and noncompetitive for resources and
awards. The strength of logical positivistic chauvinism
is, of course, the contribution which it makes to the
ability of the sciences to develop positive information
useful in generating new technology for agriculture.

There is a reciprocal normative chauvinism which
treats knowledge about values and prescriptions as
superior to and more important than what normativists
sometimes chauvinistically refer to as the "mechanis-
tic, reductionist knowledge" of the hard sciences-(Feigi,
1953). The contribution of normativism is the improve-
ment it brings about in the processes of accumulating
knowledge about values and prescriptions to solve prob-
lems. Normative chauvinism is damaging when it
results in downplaying the value of positive knowledge
generated in the so-called hard sciences. Both posi-
tivistic and normativistic chauvinism are forms of anti-
intellectualism which can open the door to mysticism
and flights from knowledge.

Pragmatic chauvinism does damage by downplay-
ing the independent work of the scientists attempting
to increase our stock of positive knowledge and the
independent efforts of humanists and students of the
arts to accumulate independent knowledge about
values. The strengths of pragmatism are in its empha-
sis on solving practical problems and its recognition
that there are important instances in which knowledge
about values and positive knowledge are interdepen-
dent. Another strength of pragmatism is its tendency
to view problems realistically in terms of all of their
important multidisciplinary dimensions. Its weaknesses
include (1) its tendency to avoid recognizing instances
of sufficient independence of knowledge about values
and positive knowledge to legitimatize their indepen-
dent pursuit without regard to immediate practical
problems and (2) a complexity which is sometimes

Disciplinary Chauvinism: -- This chauvinism is
rather closely related to philosophic chauvinism in that
"hard science" disciplines tend to be committed to logical
positivism whereas the arts and humanities tend to be
committed to various forms of normativism and per-
sonnel in colleges of education tend to be committed to
pragmatism (Whitney, 1946).

The disciplinary chauvinism of the hard sciences
involves loyalty to those sciences and to positive knowl-
edge while downgrading knowledge about values and
prescriptions from the arts, humanities and the social
sciences concerned with decision making. The hard
science disciplines of the traditional universities have
succeeded in transferring (or, perhaps, also creating in
place) their particular disciplinary chauvinism to the
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National
Science Foundation (NSF). The hard science chauvinists
from NSF and NAS and the universities have trans-
ferred their chauvinism to important members of the
U.S. Congress (Lepkowski, 1992; Marshall, 1992; Mayer
and Mayer, 1973; New York Times, 1982; Office of
Science and Technology Policy and Rockefeller Foun-
dation, 1982; Science, 1982).

There is also a disciplinary chauvinism of the arts
and humanities. In recent years this chauvinism has had
some impact on agriculture. Five conferences have been
held on agro-ethics which were organized by humanists.
One of these conferences was held in Texas in 1981,
another at Delaware in 1981 and two at the University of
Florida (Haynes and Lanier, 1982) while the fifth was
organized by the National Council of Churches of Christ
(Knowles, 1981). These conferences dealt with
important issues such as agricultural science policy, the
changing structure of U.5. agriculture, world hunger,
poverty, environmental pollution and contamination of
the food chain. This form of chauvinism has placed
extremely important issues on the agricultural research
and debate agendas ahd helped provide important
knowledge about values and prescriptions. The damage
done by this form of chauvinism grows out of its
adherent's lack of positive knowledge and knowledge
about values with respect to agricultural technology,
institutions and people and a certain intolerance of
agriculturists sometimes regarded as members of a
conspiracy of large farmers, the agricultural colleges
and agribusinesses to exploit farm laborers and con-
sumers while engaging in irresponsible degradation of the
agricultural environment and contamination of the food

There is also disciplinary chauvinism among social
scientists. Though undoubtedly extensive, this chau-
vinism is probably not as important as the chauvinism of
the humanists which is, in turn, much less important (in
my judgment) than the chauvinism of the hard science
disciplines. If this is true it is mainly because of the
dominance of the hard science disciplines in agricultural
research. This conclusion is supported by an analysis
which I did of the World Food and Nutrition Study
(3ohnson, forthcoming(a)). The World Food and Nutrition
Study was commissioned by President Ford and delivered
to President Carter.

The pragmatic chauvinism of agricultural educa-
tors is discussed below under the rubric "practical
agrarian chauvinism."

Related to all three forms of chauvinism are the
roles played by activitists concerned with agricultural
and agrarian issues (Johnson, forthcoming(b)). A number
of these groups tend to be pro-disciplinary and anti-
agricultural research establishment (George, 1976; Lappe
and Collins, 1977; Nelson, 1980; Perelman, 1978). Since
this lecture was originally presented, the less than
objective anti-agricultural research establishment TV
Nova "documentary" entitled "Down on the Farm" has
been aired. In this author's opinion, this so-called
documentary is more of a one dimensional activist
presentation than an objective assessment of the
strengths and weaknesses of the present agricultural
system and its technologies and of the changes underway
in the system.

Practical Agrarian Chauvinism: -- In some oppo-
sition to the philosophic and disciplinary chauvinisms just
discussed is the practical chauvinism of colleges of
agriculture and the USDA. The phrase "some opposition"
is used because logically positivistic chauvinism is also
characteristic of some physical scientists in colleges of
agriculture. The fundamental interest of colleges of
agriculture and the USDA in PS and SM research and
activities is substantially different from the interests of
the traditional disciplines of much of

the remainder of the land-grant universities and of
much of the non-professional colleges of U.S. non-land-
grant universities. The practical chauvinists of the
land-grant/USDA system have, in some instances, be-
come unduly defensive and tend to go on "offensive
defenses" against the disciplinary chauvinists in their
own land-grant universities, in non-land-grant universi-
ties, in the National Academy of Sciences and the
National Science Foundation (Budiansky, 1984; Cahill,
1984). The practical chauvinism of some agricultural
researchers has caused them to defend technologies and
institutional structures long after their negative im-
pacts were clearly established. On the other hand, this
same chauvinism has helped form bastions of defense
when wild and unsupported criticism has been leveled
against the agricultural establishment by other chau-

A special form of practical chauvinism in the
colleges of agriculture and the USDA is the chauvinism
of the pragmatic adult and youth educational
agencies -- the Cooperative Extension Service, the 4-H
Clubs, vocational agriculture system and the Future
Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of Ameri-
ca clubs. The strength of this form of chauvinism is its
attention to PS and practical SM research and activi-
ties. Its weakness is that DISC work in the hard
sciences and in the arts and humanities is sometimes

The general practical chauvinism of the colleges
of agriculture and the USDA has been transferred to
members of Congress and conflicts now arise between
supporters of the DISC research outside and those
inside of the USDA/colleges of agriculture system.
These conflicts influence the ability of universities to
finance PS and SM research in support of agricultural
development. More especially, this is sometimes ex-
pressed as outright conflict between the supporters of
NSF and NAS, on one hand, and supporters of the
USDA, the land-grant agricultural colleges, state agri-
cultural experiment stations and state extension serv-
ices, on the other. The disciplinarians argue that they
can get more for the buck doing DISC research than can
be obtained in the USDA and agricultural colleges
which they allege fritter away resources on insignifi-
cant, trivial "brush fire" kinds of research some of
which is unjustly regarded as duplicative because the
place specificity of much PS and SM work is ignored.
DISC research tends to be elevated while SM and PS
efforts tend to be put down. Even in some land-grant
universities, the conflict between the practical chau-
vinism of the agricultural colleges and the disciplinary
chauvinism of the traditional disciplines in the uni-
versity makes it difficult to obtain promotions and
recognition for PS and SM activities and research in
direct support of agriculture.

Still more damaging is the destruction of the very
real complementarity which exists between PS and SM
research, on one hand, and DISC research, on the other.
The conflict tends to deprive disciplinarians of the
contact which PS and SM research would give them
with problems of farmers, and with agricultural people,
institutions and technology. Kuhn, ih his book on
scientific revolutions (1970), has argued that the major
advances or revolutions which occur in scientific disci-
plines result from the confrontation of disciplines with
problems they cannot handle. The other form of lost
complementarity is the gain for PS and SM research
from a greater output of DISC research relevant for the
solutions of agricultural problems.

The conflict between disciplinary and practical
chauvinism also manifests itself in a conflict between
departments in colleges of agriculture and the more
DISC departments of the remainder of land-grant uni-
versities. There is a similar conflict or competition
between colleges of agriculture in land-grant universities
and non-land-grant universities. Both have been
transferred to Congress via the USDA connection with
agricultural colleges and via the NAS/NSF connection of
the DISC hard sciences.

The American Association of Universities (AAU)
strongly encourages and supports congressional efforts to
strengthen the basic science programs in the National
Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the
National Institutes of Health and the Department of
Defense. These efforts are also supported by the
disciplinary faculties in the National Association of
State Universities and Land Grand Colleges (NASULGC)
institutions. The strong agricultural college presence in
the NASULGC together with efforts of their engineering
and medical colleges encourages and supports PS and SM
programs of the Departments of Agriculture, Interior,
Health and Human Services, National Aeronautics and
Space, Defense and Energy. These efforts are
strengthened by the engineering and medical faculties of
the AAU institutions.

The National Academy of Science and its affiliated
National Research Council have fluctuated over the last
20 years from organizations with strong efforts in both
basic and problem solving areas to ones in which the
problem solving focus suffered serious atrophy. In very
recent years, it is stated that they are attempting to
rebuild the former, more balanced approach. Though
agriculture, in particular, is receiving greater attention
today by NAS/NRC than it was three years ago, the
emphasis appears to be more on agriculturally relevant
DISC than directly on PS and SM research for agricul-

Academic Excellence as a Chauvinism: -- There
is a related chauvinism involving the definition of
academic excellence which tends to detract from the
ability of universities to serve agriculture. This chau-
vinism involves loyalty to a narrow definition of aca-
demic excellence or quality which elevates disciplinary
accomplishments while denigrating PS and SM activities.
This makes it difficult for universities to finance,
promote and give adequate recognition to PS and SM
excellence. In some cases this chauvinism is so bad that
solutions to practical problems are regarded as lacking
academic excellence as when the development of new
rust resistant varieties of wheat is downgraded in favor
of DISC work in microbiology. It also leads to undue and
inappropriate reliance on disciplinary peers for the
evaluation of PS and SM research who are unfamiliar
with the problems and issues being addressed. In some
universities, agricultural experiment station and
extension service publications simply do not count for
faculty trenure, promotion and recognition purposes;
instead, the emphasis is on peer reviewed articles
published in disciplinary journals. This chauvinism also
precludes reliance on reviews of PS and SM work by the
decision makers who use results of PS and SM work and
by persons affected by their decisions. Overcoming this
form of chauvinism requires an expansion of our
concepts of academic excellence to include excellence in
doing PS and SM work and the recognition that while this
kind of excellence is different from DISC excellence and
requires a different group of peers to evaluate it, it is
still excellence (Johnson, 1976).

The Chauvinism of Non-Land-Grant Universit-
ies: -- This discussion of chauvinism would be incom-
plete without a discussion of the chauvinism of non-
land-grant universities which is, of course, closely re-
lated to philosophic, disciplinary, and academic chau-
vinism considered earlier.

For a considerable period of time, non-land-grant
universities had little sustained interest in agriculture.
This began to change after World War u as non-land-
grant university personnel became interested in the
development of less developed countries which were
largely agrarian. Though the non-land-grant universi-
ties concerned with development were slow to see the
importance of agriculture, once they saw it their inter-
est in agriculture grew (Schultz, 1964). The interest of
non-land-grant universities in agriculture expanded
even more sharply after the short-lived food shortages
and the much longer-lived energy shortages which burst
upon us in the early seventies. Then, too, the agricul-
tural interests of non-land-grant universities expanded
still more as agricultural technology became more
advanced, complicated and dependent upon disciplinary
advances. The activists who have been critical of the
agricultural establishment in the 1970s also increased
the interest of non-land-grant universities in agricul-
ture -- in fact, many of the anti-ARE activitists are
from non-land-grant universities.

The growing interest of non-land-grant universi-
ties in agriculture is particularly crucial for agriculture
which badly needs the relevant DISC contributions
these universities can make; however, it has to be noted
that researchers in non-land-grant universities tend to
lack firsthand knowledge of agricultural technologies,
environments, institutions and people -- further they
lack the physical facilities to carry out PS and SM
research. This nation's agricultural experiment sta-
tions, field stations, physical resources and institutional
resources for researching crop and livestock production
are mainly in the land-grant colleges of agriculture, not
in the non-land-grant universities. Non-land-grant uni-
versities have good facilities for doing DISC research
relevant to agriculture but poor facilities for doing PS
and SM research --some wag has observed that not
much corn grows in Harvard's yard. He might also have
observed that not much grows in the rectangles of the
University of Chicago where I received my Ph.D. Non-
land-grant chauvinism is damaging when personnel from
such universities denigrate the PS and SM work of the
USDA and land-grant colleges of agriculture despite
their own lack of firsthand agricultural knowledge, of
PS experience, and of agricultural research facilities.
These deficiencies make it difficult for personnel in
non-land-grant universities to know what is and is not
relevant DISC research for agriculture, the importance
of PS and SM research for agriculture and, hence, to
grant respectability to the PS and SM research of the
land-grant system.

Anti- and Pro-Administrative Chauvinism: -- In
order to understand the difficulties which the academic
world experiences in carrying out PS and SM research
and other activities to support agriculture, it is also
necessary to consider both anti- and pro-administrative
chauvinism both of which are unduly common in aca-
demic circles.

Anti-administrative researchers and workers fail
to understand and often resent the greater amounts of
administration needed for doing PS and SM as con-
trasted to DISC research. These two kinds of research

generally require more administration than DISC re-
search because multidisciplinary teams of PS researchers
and multidisciplinary "institute-like" SM departments
need to be adjusted with changes in the problems and
issues important for agriculture. Making these
adjustments involves abolition of old teams and
departments and the creation of new teams and depart-
ments within and outside of colleges of agriculture. This
requires high quality administrative work. Still further,
ability to bring together people from diverse disciplinary
backgrounds into configurations requires that
administrators know the problems, people, and
institutions of agriculture as well as the different
multidisciplinary subjects important to agricultural
decision makers.

The tenured staff person or professor who resists
administration of PS and SM research and tries to reduce
the amount of administration available is practicing a
particular kind of anti-administrative chauvinism which
might be labeled "tenured professor" chauvinism. I have
heard at least one administrator who was frustrated in
his attempts to organize the work of tenured professors
on practical agricultural problems and subjects make the
observation that tenured professors have no brakes,
steering wheels or accelerators and, as such, are beyond
administrative control.

Pro-Administrative Chauvinism takes different
forms in the traditional DISC departments of the uni-
versity than it does in the SM departments of agicultural
colleges and in the USDA. In both cases, though, undue
loyalty to existing administrative arrangements makes it
difficult to restructure to tackle new problems and
issues important for agriculture in a timely manner.
Loyalty to existing SM departments in colleges of
agriculture and to DISC departments makes it difficult
to obtain personnel and skills from different departments
for reconstitution into new departments or institutes in
agricultural colleges to research such multidisciplinary
subjects as energy, hunger, environmental pollution, and
contamination of the food chains not to mention the
concentrations of power developing in agribusiness and
among large agricultural producers.

The Cooperative Extension Services tend to be
more flexible and better oriented to PS and current
issues than either the DISC or multidisciplinary SM
departments just considered. Though this flexibility of
the Cooperative Extension Services tends to offset the
damaging influence of the pro-administrative chauvinists
of the traditional DISC departments and of the SM
departments of colleges of agriculture, extension work is
often unjustly denigrated by disciplinarians and
researchers in the multidisciplinary SM departments of
agricultural colleges. Ernest Nesius, who used to be
director of the Cooperative Extension Service at the
University of Kentucky, once observed that "the diffi-
culty is that universities have departments while farmers
have problems." I think it might have been even better
had he said "the difficulty is that universities have
disciplines, departments, department chairpersons,
deans, directors and professors, while farmers have

Attempts to separate agricultural experiment sta-
tions and extension services from the remainder of
universities only accentuate the problem of reconsti-
tuting their departments and of drawing on expertise
from the rest of the university. This limitation becomes
increasingly important as agricultural technologies,
institutions and personnel requirements be-

come more complex and dependent on disciplinary

A New Covenant Is Required of Us

I believe that a new covenant is now required if
academia is to overcome its chauvinistic divisiveness to
serve agriculture adequately with PS, SM and DISC
research and activities in the next half century. The
present destructive competition between the practical
chauvinism of the USDA and land-grant system and the
more academic chauvinisms of the non-agricultural
colleges of land-grant universities and non-land-grant
universities must be countered constructively with a
new expanded "land-grant-like" covenant. More disci-
plinary work is needed but this is no time to do this by
taking resources away from PS and SM activities;
instead, more resources are needed for both. Further, I
believe that the political clientele for PS and SM
research for agriculture would fight with much justifi-
cation a reduction in support for PS and SM agricultural
research. I believe we must rise above our chauvinisms
so as to avoid their constraints and exploit their
strengths and seek a balanced and expanded political
and financial base for all three types of work -- PS, SM
and DISC -- in support of agriculture.

It is also clear that universities, in toto, must
learn to respect PS and SM work and to seek a balance
between the two of them, on one hand, and DISC work,
on the other. Excellence in doing all three must be
recognized in order to improve the promotion and
recognition of PS and SM work and workers and in order
to utilize the appropriate evaluative peer groups for PS
and SM research.

The required covenant must represent a compro-
mise between the practical chauvinisms of the USDA
and land-grant colleges, on one hand, and the disci-
plinary philosophic, academic and non-land-grant chau-
vinisms which were discussed above. This political
compromise or covenant is required in order to obtain
additional support for DISC as well as PS and SM work
all of which will be needed if agriculture is to obtain
the levels of productive capacity targeted at the be-
ginning of this paper. We also need this compromise
agreement or covenant in order for the agricultural
establishment and the traditional disciplines to exploit
the complementarities between DISC work, on one
hand, and PS and SM work, on the other.

Along with the need for a new covenant is the
internal need of the universities to recognize, award
and provide for the greater amounts of administration
required for PS and SM research. In order for this
additional administration to be effective, we also need
to recognize, reward (Johnson, 1971) and provide for
interactions of administrators with the decision makers
of agriculture and with the people who are affected by
the decisions of agriculture's decision makers (Ross-
miller, 1978).

We, in the colleges of agriculture and the USDA,
must abandon a substantial amount of that part of our
practical chauvinism which denigrates the disciplinary.
We need and must seek out additional relevant DISC
work from biological and physical scientists, social
scientists and scholars from the arts and humanities
outside the colleges of agriculture. To this end, Sylvan
Wittwer and I have advocated substantial expansion of
the competitive grants for agriculturally relevant DISC

research in the biological and physical sciences (Johnson
and Wittwer, forthcoming). We have also advocated the
initiation of additional competitive grants to be awarded
both inside and outside the USDA/land-grant college
system for (1) agriculturally relevant DISC work in the
social sciences and in the arts and humanities and (2) PS
and SM research for agriculture.

It would also be strategic for agricultural faculties
to form a broader interchange with faculties of
engineering, medicine, education, business administra-
tion, etc. Clearly, agricultural facilities share with these
other faculties a common interest in PS and SM research
as well as a common dependence on disciplinary

Some Special Observations with Respect to
Mississippi State University

I believe that Mississippi State University is for-
tunate to have a local covenant of the kind I advocate
for the nation. As a consequence, I believe it is better
organized to do PS and SM research than most
universities. Perhaps it has this covenant because it has
partially avoided or has not yet fully encountered the
chauvinisms I have deplored above. Alternatively, her
disciplinarians may not yet be rich enough to be
chauvinistic. In any event Mississippi State has an
enviable record in doing PS and SM research for
agriculture -- for farms, for agribusinesses, for
consumers of farm products and, I believe, for rural non-
farmers and government. The record is good whether
one looks at catfish farmers, rice producers, minimum
tillage, the introduction of fertilizers, improved
varieties, herbicides, pesticides or forestry.

I think it's fair to observe that Mississippi State is
somewhat short on DISC research relative to the typical
land-grant university. Nonetheless, the PS and SM
researchers and other workers at Mississippi State have
either been able to do enough DISC research of their own
or have been able to obtain disciplinary results from
other institutions to serve Mississippi agriculture well.
As the biological and institutional revolutions gain
further momentum in the years ahead, though,
Mississippi State will have to ensure that it will be able
to get an increased flow of DISC knowledge. I doubt
that a few "flagship centers" of agriculturally relevant
DISC research will be sufficient for Mississippi or any
state without such a center and, for that matter, even
for states with such centers. Mississippi, like all other
states, will need disciplinarians in touch with the prob-
lems of her farmers. Much more DISC knowledge will be
needed if Mississippi's very substantial agricultural
resources are to make their full contribution to the
technologically and institutionally more complex agri-
cultural and agribusiness systems of the U.S. in the next
fifty years. Mississippi's agricultural technologies,
institutions, and organizational problems are now getting
more complex and the process is only starting.
Disciplinary advances in the biological and physical
sciences, in the humanities and especially in the social
sciences will become increasingly important. Mississippi
State needs to give specific attention to where it will
get the necessary .relevant disciplinary advances if it is
to address the complex, practical problems and subjects
which will be important for Mississippi in the years
ahead. Mississippi will also face an increased need for
skilled agriculturists, agribusiness persons, institutional
managers and civil servants knowledgeable of

It should not be forgotten that Mississippi State
University is part of the national picture, that national
support for PS and SM research and other work is
threatened and that DISC research will not necessarily
be relevant for Mississippi's agriculture unless disci-
plinarians are kept in contact with the agricultural
problems of the state. Mississippi State gets much of
its support for agricultural PS and SM research from
the national budget and that national support for agri-
cultural work is now threatened. Mississippi has a stake
in a national covenant as her state covenant will not
continue to be adequate unless a national covenant is

The success at Mississippi State in keeping a focus
on PS and SM research for agriculture while obtaining
necessary DISC research from a combination of her own
DISC work and imports from others should be noted in
the national debate on agricultural science policy and
agricultural science funding. Her success should be
used in forming the required new covenant. For this
reason, I am particularly pleased to note Mississippi
State's participation in national agricultural science
debates. In this connection, the work of Professor
Bobby Eddleman with Interregional Project.6 on agri-
cultural research priorities is especially noteworthy. I
also think of the discussions which I have had with Vice
President for Graduate Studies and Research, M. T.
Loftin, Vice President for Agriculture, Forestry and
Veterinary Medicine, Louis N. Wise and Experiment
Station Director R. Rodney Foil who are fully aware of
Mississippi State's success and of the threat of national
developments. It is my good fortune to work under a
former Mississippi State Experiment Station Director,
James Anderson, who is now a Vice Provost and Dean of
Agriculture at Michigan State University. He is an
effective spokesman in trying to reach a covenant
between the supporters of the practical chauvinism of
the land-grant colleges and USDA, on one hand, and the
supporters of philosophic, disciplinary, and academic
chauvinisms of the disciplines outside colleges of agri-
culture, on the other. He sees the need for this
compromise and brings to the debate his experience
with the successful agricultural program- of research
and other activities at Mississippi State as well as his
experience at Michigan State.


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