billion in FY1999), they increasingly address issues relating to small and medium-sized farmers, respond to concerns of underserved constituencies, and encourage a closer linkage of extension and research in multistate, multidisciplinary, and public and private efforts emphasizing research that bears on the structure of agriculture.
The public sector should continue to experiment with research approaches—including multifunctional partnerships that link research and extension, partnerships that link the public sector with the private and nonprofit sectors, multi-state cooperation, and multidisciplinary collaboration—as instruments for serving small farms, minority farmers, and other underserved producers. The public sector should evaluate the potential and effectiveness of these research approaches to serve these constituents.
Public research is responding to a broadening of criteria for priority setting in research, which has implications for the structure of agriculture. This is occurring in three major areas: research to monitor and analyze structural variables; research to serve the needs of diverse constituencies; and research to further understand drivers of structural change other than research and development.
An analysis of the public-sector research portfolio demonstrates that although production agriculture still dominates, its share has decreased over time. Funding for research on specialty commodities, which offer opportunities for smaller growers to capture value, has increased relative to funding for research on other commodities, such as field crops. Support for chemical and mechanical research is minimal, whereas research on issues likely to benefit small and underserved farms as well as large farms—for example, natural resources and the environment, marketing, and rural development—is increasing. An analysis of research on environmentally sustainable technologies indicates that the public sector has played a major role in generating these technologies, many of them useful to farmers outside the commercial mainstream.
Innovative funding mechanisms integrating research and extension and fostering multidisciplinary research are suggested as possible avenues toward more effective investigation of structural questions.