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CHAPTER 9 Agriculture: A System, a Science, or a Commodity? Norman R Scott and Brian F. Chabot Although past agricultural policy focused on production and farm commodities, it is clear that future agricultural policy will be driven by environmental issues, rural development, food safety, energy, information technologies, and global competition. This chapter has two basic objectives. The first is to ask the following question: What is agriculture and what must colleges of agriculture become, especially relative to undergraduate education through the limos and Into the twenty-first century? The second, more significant objective is to show that we must place much greater emphasis on our perceptions of the colleges of agriculture of the future. What is Agriculture? In the beginning, agriculture simply meant farming. Agriculture was a word that "educated people" used to refer to farming. The food distribution system was rudimentary, value-added processing occurred in the home, and farm implements were produced by a blacksmith rather than an agricultural Implement industry. Agriculture is defined as the art or science of cultivating the land; the production of crops and livestock on a farm; farming. As we view agriculture today, we see it as a system of farmers and agribusinesses that supply production resources (machinery' fertil- izer, money, etc.) or that process and distribute products from the farm. Consumers, as individuals who purchase agricultural prod- ucts, thereby influence what is produced and are an integral part of the system. Community services surrounding farm families and agricultural industries are a key part of the system. The publicts consciousness and concern for the environment has 75

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE moved it to one of the higher national priorities. The publicts con- cerns about food safety with respect to pesticides; a growing con- cern for the quality of groundwater and surface water resources; increasing attention to global climate change; and the Issues of economics, energy, and biotechnology illustrate the heightened public consciousness. Environmentalists and animal rights activists are vocal parts of the system. In the cover story of the September 26, 1988, issue of Fortune magazine, which focused on managing for the 1990S, the following question was posed: What issue will grab people the most? "Despite mounting distress about AIDS, drug abuse, and the homeless, some observers think that the number one issue will be environmental protection. We will be obsessed with water in the cots" (Kupfer' 1988:45). Building upon the statement of John Muir, that "everything is hitched to everything else in the universe" (Muir, 191 1 :s3), the bound- aries of any system are more difficult to define. The point is that the agricultural system is much larger than it used to be and in- creasingly is more tightly interwoven into the full fabric of society. Thus, for the purposes of this chapter, we define agriculture as the activity of mankind that produces healthful and nutritious foods, industrial feedstocks, and renewable fuels while enhancing and main- taining the quality of the environment; energy, raw materials, and food are undeniably necessary for a stable society. Roles of Colleges of Agriculture Because colleges of agriculture playocl a lead role in creating the complex and diverse food and agricultural system that we have today, it is not surprising that colleges of agriculture today are far different from their humble beginnings approximately 1 2S years ago. At their inception, a mere handful of faculty focused their efforts on training young men in the practical arts and emerging science of farming. Research to solve the problems of the farm soon fol- lowed. Later still, an active extension responsibility was added to the duties of the faculty. This evolution of function paralleled an evolution of the kinds of courses that were offered and the subjects that were researched. The early history of Cornell University, which probably parallels that of other land-grant institutions, documents a struggle to find individuals capable of teaching agricultural sub- jects. Those hired as faculty tended to be trained in the classical subjects of chemistry and biology, but with a bent toward agricul- ture. Practical agricultural training was initially handled by success- ful local farmers interested in the future of the new college a rever- sal of todays extension process. Todays agriculture faculty at Cornell University comprises more than 450 people (including many from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Veteri 76

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AGRICULTURE: SYSTEM, SCIENCE, OR COMMODITY nary Medicine, and College of Human Ecology). The faculty~s ex- pertise captures the complexity of contemporary agricultural sys- tems and rural Issues, with a range of course offerings so vast as to be inconceivable to those early pioneers on a fledgilng faculty. Through this process, universities In the United States evolved away from providing a limited classical education for a privileged few to serving the aspirations and needs of society as a whole. Certain of these needs are of paramount importance because they deal with the fundamental resources upon which our civilization is built. Primary resource areas are food, energy, environment, and economics. Many other program areas are crucially important to the educational and research roles that universities play. However, those universities that aspire to serve national needs must have well-developed programs in most or all of these fundamental re- source areas. It is within this larger context that our vision for the role of colleges of agriculture is presented. In order to gain some perspective as to how others view the role of colleges of agriculture, we did a quick survey of deans and directors of Cornellts College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, ask- lng them what they regarded as the mission of the college. Here are the replies: o to conduct programs in research, extension, and instruction to meet the needs of the people of New York State as a land-grant college; to generate knowledge and transmit that knowledge to clients in the state, nation, and world and to produce young men and women for leadership positions; research and education; to educate students, to create new knowledge, and to dissemi nate knowledge to various publics; to be the number one land-grant college; and to support (sustain) the agricultural industry of New York and the people it serves As can be seen from these responses, present leaders of Cornellts College of Agriculture and Life Sciences tend to view its mission in broad terms. It is not until priority programs are defined that the college begins to distinguish itself from other colleges at the univer- sity. This larger world view has developed with time, because the perceived mission of the college at its founding was focused on agriculture in a less ambiguous way. Given that the agricultural system has grown more complex, what, then, do we view as the role of colleges of agriculture? First, it needs to be emphasized that training of undergraduates is only one of the roles of colleges of agriculture. Even if there were no undergraduate students, research and extension needs would argue for the continued existence of faculty in colleges of 77

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE agriculture. Colleges of agriculture can expect to continue to pro- vide the research base for farmers, packers, shippers, wholesalers, retailers, bankers, rural schools, community planners, and the many other professions that relate to modern agriculture. Second, colleges of agriculture should draw on the wealth of scientific expertise to address the more general issues now facing society. For example, expertise in farm finance is easily extended in the curriculum as accounting, business management, and private entrepreneurship. A program in communications for extension pro- fessionals can produce courses in scientific writing, speaking, video production, and more. Basic biological sciences faculty in produc- tion agriculture departments can contribute to a general biology curriculum for the university as a whole. Faculty with expertise in water~uality management or energy use on the farm can contrib- ute to larger programs on environmental issues or energy policy. This line of thinking extends to many other areas. Faculty in col- leges of agriculture have special expertise that can relate to the more general interests of the current students. Stability of enroll- ment within Cornell~s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has come entirely through reframing the roles of individual faculty and groups of faculty. Along these lines, colleges of agriculture have much to contrib- ute to what we suggest are the fundamental and enduring resource issues faced by our society: food, energy, environment, and eco- nomics. Drawing on a long history of involvement and a significant depth of expertise, colleges of agriculture will be among the stron- gest players in these areas. Some colleges have already made this transition. Third, colleges of agriculture should accept the responsibility for providing a general education in agriculture for nonagricultural stu- dents. Gould Coleman, an historian at Cornell, relates the following about George Stanton Gould, a charter member of Cornell~s faculty. Gould viewed agriculture as a framework within which a vast part of mants knowledge could be fitted. He believed that no man could be educated without some exposure to agriculture, and from this perspective, he gave a series of lectures on agriculture at large to the entire senior class of the university. The inspiration for these views has been lost in the current curriculum. we do not have such a course today, but there is not a better time or a greater need for one. Beyond this, who is better positioned to teach courses in issues of food safety, nutrition, and the environment? This pro- vides a base for what we contend to be a role for colleges of agriculture In the future. These suggestions presuppose that the need to educate stu- dents to be farmers will continue to diminish. we simply have become too good at increasing the production efficiency of farms. Some claim that agricultural research, which is done principally at 78

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AGRICULTURE: SYSTEM, SCIENCE, OR COMMODITY? the land-grant universities, has put farmers out of business. This is a major issue in the debate over recombinant bovine somatotropin. Whatever the cause, it seems inescapable that there will be fewer farmers in the future. In response, the teaching capacity of depart- ments of production agriculture needs to convert to other functions, as described above, or be directed at new audiences. However, this point raises an Issue that must be confronted: Are colleges of agriculture, currently or as they are likely to be in the future, attractive places for training future farmers? At a place like Cornell, with its Ivy League Image, it is hard to imagine that peer pressure and the structure of the curriculum are really conducive to farm youth who wish to remain in farming. The most successful farmers in the future are likely to be skilled businessmen with ad- vanced educations and technical knowledge that colleges of agrl- culture are in the best position to provide. Especially in the face of increasing opportunities and the need to expand into nonagricultural areas, we strongly urge these colleges to examine carefully the kind of experience and educational environment being offered to farm youth. Can Undergraduate Enrollments be Enhanced in Colleges of Agriculture? We suggest that there are at least three ways to enhance under- graduate enrollments in colleges of agriculture. First, expand the range of course offerings in colleges of agriculture, especially in those discipilnes that are part of the agricultural system but that are pertinent to other elements of society, such as business manage- ment; personal enterprise; communications; engineering; and the biological, biomedical, and environmental sciences. Other options include general agriculture and social issues courses dealing with, for example, nutrition, food safety, and health. Many colleges have already moved in this direction, some so substantially that agricul- ture is now a minor theme. The curriculum must address science-based agriculture. It must recognize the entirety of the system and its complex interactions. It must be exciting and relevant to the interests of society. It must educate teachers, focus on the basics, identify the clients, and maintain a strong commitment to service. Second, the student body should be expanded to include those other than the typical undergraduates. As the technology in agricul- ture continues to Increase, there is a need for well-educated and skilled agriculturalists. We need to reframe our concept of the undergraduate, and undergraduates need not be limited to those between the ages of 17 and 21. Third, the attraction of minority students to colleges of agricul 79

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE ture must be enhanced. Despite substantial recruiting efforts at Cornell, the proportion of minorities in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is about 13 percent, compared with 24 percent in the College of Arts and Sciences. There is a significant need to communicate the changing image of agriculture to minority stu- dents. We submit that, not only for minority students but for all students, if agriculture is understood to be a science-based pro- gram that focuses on the issues of biotechnology, environment, energy, information technologies, rural communities, and econom- ics, the best students will be attracted to our colleges. Challenges for Graduates of Colleges of Agriculture The food and agricultural problems of today and through the 1990S require integrated multidisciplinary efforts. There is an ever- increasing need to develop comprehensive systems that integrate financial and marketing options, production technologies, and re- source management practices that maintain a clean environment and that are socially responsible. During the twentieth century, agriculture was transformed from having an early focus on produc- tion, which was further enhanced by mechanization, followed by gains through chemical-based technological processes, which has led to what Hardy (1988) calls the "era of biology." This era of biology began in about 1950 and has grown to become the domi- nant science of the 1990S and for the twenty-first century. Gradu- ates of colleges of agriculture must deal with the new science, which consists of biotechnology, information technologies (comput- ing, robotics, microelectronics)' concerns for the environment, en- ergy conservation and use, new materials (both food and nonfood products)' trade and policy issues, and human capital. These are great challenges indeed; and colleges of agriculture must prepare students to address the challenges of change, conflict, communica- tion, cooperation, competitiveness, and control. Change It has been said that there is nothing as constant as change. As environmentally conscious farmers face the world today, they fully recognize the challenges of change. The heightened concern for food safety and groundwater quality is forcing a change from the high dependence on chemicals that was so prevalent In the 1950s. Not only have farmers faced pressures for change from the public and its perceptions about the safety of pesticides but they have also found that pests have developed a resistance to numerous pesticides rendering them ineffective. In addition, there is another 80

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AGRICULTURE: SYSTEM, SCIENCE, OR COMMODITY? challenge for change in the concept of sustainable agriculture as it attempts to use integrated agroecosystem concepts to reduce the use of chemicals. Not only will farmers need to make changes but there must be changes on the part of consumers as well if reduced amounts of chemicals are to be used in agricultural production. Reduced pesti- cide usage at least in the short run, until alternative practices are more fully developed and proven is likely to result in more blem- ishes on fruits and vegetables and increased amounts of insect parts in food. Polls of a few years ago suggested that when con- sumers were confronted with a choice between fruits and veg- etables with blemishes but that were grown without the use of pesticides and unblemished foods produced with pesticides, they would choose the blemished products over the better-appearing foods. More recent polls indicate that the choice of foods grown without pesticides has eroded and that, because of price differ- ences, consumers are not purchasing organically grown products like they did earlier. Conflict We generally seek to move from conflict to convergence, and there is a general perception that conflict is bad and destructive. However, it has been said that creativity Is forged on the anvil of conflict. There is much growth and understanding that can be devel- oped from constructive conflict. Graduates must not decry the con- flicts that will exist but must seek to develop processes by which groups listen to one another and work toward common objectives. communicatioDt Too often, communication among industry, regulators, research- ers, extenslonists, and farmers has been poor or nonexistent. Un- fortunately, It is much easier to talk about communication than It Is to develop mechanisms by which real communication can take place between these groups, which have their own special inter- ests. Communication of science to the general public is difficult at best and is increasingly difficult when continually mixed messages emanate from regulators, industry, and scientists. Graduates must be able to cut through the "hype" and work toward a true dialogue between concerned parties. AS succinctly stated by Barker (1990), "all need to speak, all need to listen, all need to learn." Cooperation Cooperation and coordination must be developed among farm- ers, state legislatures, departments of agriculture, departments of 81

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE health, departments of environmental protection, and educational institutions to develop an agenda that addresses the numerous agricultural issues. Graduates must work with all of these organiza- tions to stress the concepts of agricultural and ecological literacy so that future generations can understand the important role of agriculture, economically and environmentally, in the United States. Competitiveness During the 1980S, as a result of global economic issues in combi- nation with U.S. and foreign agricultural policies and programs, there was a period of crisis for agriculture. Increased competitiveness and enhanced profitability in the development of new technologies that improve production efficiency and the quality of products must be addressed to maintain the viability of U.S. agriculture. It is clear that globalization not only exists in agriculture today but must also be recognized as a principal driving force in the future. Graduates must understand the nature of todays global markets and the inter- nationalization that drives the food and agricultural system. Control The issue of control or regulation of agricultural practices is an ever-increasing and potentially contentious issue. Who will control the agricultural practices, and at what level is it necessary for con- trol measures to be triggered? It is not unreasonable for the public to be confused when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies a chemical as a carcinogen and states that it must be banned, but not for another several years. The concentration of chemicals is a key element here. With modern instrumentation we are able to measure ever smaller quantities of pesticides and chemicals in our water and food than we could before these modern means of measurement were available. This has led to a tendency to consider the detection of a pesticide or a chemical as being a problem when, in fact, the rational approach is to compare the concentration against the threshold that has been established for human consumption. The process is made ever more difficult by the lack of good data about the toxicity of a pesticide or chemical and the determination of how much gets into the food supply. Graduates must be prepared to address these questions. Agriculture: An Integrated System There are agricultural sciences, but agriculture itself is not a sci- ence. From our conceptual definition of agriculture and a consider- ation of extensive discussions and ideas, we suggest that agricul- ture is an integrated system. This system is conceptually illustrated in Figure 9-1, which embodies the following concepts: 82

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AGRICULTURE: SYSTEM, SCIENCE, OR COMMODITY? ~Science) ~nsume) Jam - (pplication:) __~' ~' "Markets) Sclences Applications Markets Mathemabcs Animal Production Agribusiness Physical Sciences Animal Systems Chemicals Geology Biotechnology Educationallnstitutions Physics Business and Management Electrical and Electronic Biological Sciences Energy Energy Companies Basic Biology Environment (air, land, water) Farm Equipment Biochemistry Food Processing Financiallnsbtutions Ecology Forestry Food Companies and Equipment Genetics Human Resources Government Microbiology New Products Greenhouses and Nurseries Physiology Non-Food Products Marine Pest Management Ornamentals (turn Engineering Sclences Plant Production Pharmaceuticals Computing Plant Systems Production Agriculture Electronics Safety (farming) Transport Pro ses are Matenals Waste Management Soil Management Thermodynamics Space Social Sciences Technology Transter Communication (extension) Economics Wastes Psychology Water Management Sociology Statistics Humanibes Government History Linguistics FIGURE 9-1 Agriculture as an integrated system. 83

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCES App `:a ~m Markets FIGURE ~2 Thin-lens model of agriculture as an integrated system. CONSUMERS Basic sciences provide the fundamental basis on which knowl- edge is applied. The application of scientific knowledge to the food and agricul- tural system is the focus of colleges of agriculture as it is typically played out through their respective departments. Markets represent areas of technology development where graduates apply their professional expertise. The ultimate beneficiary of the products developed in the mar- ketplace is the consumer. we ask the reader to view this circular model as a conceptual representation of agriculture as an integrated system and to try to refrain from focusing on the specific details of or the entries miss- ing from the diagram. The important point is that this model dls- plays agriculture as a system in which the basic sciences are ap- plled for the development of the markets that serve the needs of consumers. Colleges of agriculture play that important role of con- verting science into applications that are usable by the market seg- ment. The double arrows suggest the feedback of markets on applications and of consumers on markets. One might well debate whether consumers have even a weak feedback on the sciences; however, this weak feedback of consumers on the sciences pro- vides a nice symmetry. The thin-lens model illustrated in Figure 9-2 suggests that col- leges of agriculture act like an optical device. The pair of thin lenses (applications and markets) acts to focus the source (science) on the focal point (consumers). At the same time, colleges of agriculture transfer and transform fundamental knowledge to a form that is usable by the market. Figures 9-1 and 9-2 are presented in the spirit of this chapter, which has sought to communicate fundamental concepts and serve as a basis for discussion. In either model, colleges of agriculture are critical elements in the transformation of scientific knowledge for the benefit of society, and colleges of agriculture are key ele- ments in the integrated system of agriculture. 84

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AGRICULTURE: SYSTEM, SCIENCE, OR COMMODITY? References Barker, R. 1990. Concluding remarks. Pp. 27-34 in Agricultural Biotech- nology: Food Safety and Nutritional Quality for the Consumer. NABC Report 2. Ithaca, N.Y.: National Agricultural Biotechnology Council, Cornell University. Hardy, R. W. F. 1988. Agricultural biotechnology and the environment. Pp. 3~36 in Proceedings from the Governor's Conference on Agricul- ture and the Environment: A Convergence of Interests. Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of Environmental Conserva- tion, Albany, N.Y. Kupfer, A. 1988. Managing now for the 199~s. Fortune 118(7):44-46. Muir, J. 191 1. My First Summer in the Sierra. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 85