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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile 5 THE EVOLUTION OF EXTENSION AT THE LAND GRANT COLLEGES OF AGRICULTURE This chapter introduces the third aspect of the colleges' tripartite mission, that of off-campus extension. It describes the funding base for extension, the geographic allocation of extension resources, and the allocation of extension resources among major program emphases. The data, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Extension Service (now a component of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service), is used to compare the types of problems being addressed by extension staff in relation to those of interest to the colleges' research scientists. The theory behind university extension is that education and research developments achieved through public funding should be more broadly available to those not attending the institutions and throughout one's lifetime. To realize that goal, programs were developed that geographically extended the availability of the educational resources of an institution by special arrangements such as correspondence courses and on-site consultations to persons otherwise unable to take advantage of such resources. The concept of "university extension" was introduced by U.S. colleges and universities working through city libraries. In the 1890s New York appropriated funds for university extension work and the University of Chicago included extension in its original plan of organization. Agricultural colleges also began to look at the extension movement in the 1890s. For example, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey offered six lectures each on soils and crops, feeding plants, and animal nutrition at different locations around the state. The 1914 Smith Lever Act established extension on a nationwide basis as a unique cooperative effort by federal, state, and local governments. The federal mandate came in response to concerns that information and technology being developed at the SAESs and USDA were not reaching many farmers, particularly those most in need of education. The colleges and SAESs were understaffed in relation to needs, and a gap was developing between professors on the campus and farmers in the fields.
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile In the decades that followed, this third function of the land grant colleges may have faced greater pressures for change than either campus instruction or research; and because of its relatively strong local base of support, it may have reoriented itself in response to local needs more than either research or campus-based teaching programs. The extension program's original mandate—to educate farmers regarding new farm technologies and ways in which farm life could be improved—has been challenged by a number of factors, principally the decline in farm population and the changing profile of farms and farmers themselves. In 1988 the Cooperative Extension Service reformulated its statement of purpose to stress its role in helping people help themselves "through an educational process which uses scientific knowledge focused on issues and needs" (Rasmussen, 1989: p. 223). The statement is unbounded by discipline, audience, or geography, leaving open the question of who, primarily, extension should serve. In today's context, some have asked whether state and local extension services should continue to draw primarily from the research and programs of the colleges of agriculture or, instead, become a conduit for the research and programs of the entire university. Although the role of the federal partnership has been declining, federal funds are increasingly earmarked for specific extension activities. Table 5-1 shows that total cooperative extension funding to states grew more slowly during the 1982 to 1992 period than during the previous decade. At the same time, the role of the federal partner in providing extension services has been declining. Twenty years ago federal funds accounted for 42 percent of all funding; in 1992 the federal funds were only 29 percent (Figure 5-1). In fact, these numbers may understate the declining role of the federal and even the public sector; there is evidence of a growing role for private-sector firms in providing extension-type services to farmers in particular (Bradshaw and Marquart, 1990) (see box copy, p. 70). TABLE 5-1 Sources of Funds (millions of dollars) Allocated to States for Cooperative Extension Work, 1972–1992 Year Source 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 Federal $149 $198 $302 $319 $401 State 136 220 368 500 652 Local 70 105 182 229 333 Total $354 $524 $852 $1,048 $1,386 SOURCE: Data were provided by the USDA Extension Service.
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile FIGURE 5-1 Between 1972 and 1992, federal funding of cooperative extension services decreased from 42 percent to 29 percent of total funding. As the role for the federal partner has declined, Congress' role in directing extension programs has increased. Table 5-2 shows that in the last 5 years formula funds for extension have grown more slowly than "special" funds. Special funds are those earmarked by Congress for specific types of services. Urban and rural nutrition programs, such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), have been a particular focus of Congressional earmarks. Water quality, pest management, and youth at risk have also been targets of earmarked funds. On the other hand, federal support for rural and community development programs has been inconsistent (Rasmussen, 1989). Extension staff divide their time among farm service, community development, and consumer education programs, while research scientists target crop and animal production.
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile The Expanding Role of Private Crop Consultants According to the American Association of Independent Crop Consultants, independent consultants now work with farmers on production issues, such as nutrient, pesticide, and fungicide requirements, on a one-to-one basis in much the same way that extension agents did in earlier years. These independent agents draw on the resources provided by the extension specialists at colleges of agriculture. They look to the Cooperative Extension Service to coordinate many of the farm service functions in their geographic area. Independent crop consultants are typically educated at the land grant colleges because they are required to obtain a 4-year agricultural science degree before they can be certified. The association has produced position papers promoting revisions to curricula at the colleges, revisions designed to make coursework more pertinent to the in-the-field practice of crop consulting (Bradshaw and Marquart, 1990). The independent crop consultant business really got off the ground during the 1970s, although private consultants in cotton-producing regions have been active for 40 years. Other private crop consultants work for the fertilizer and other chemical dealerships. TABLE 5-2 USDA Appropriations (millions of dollars) for Cooperative Extension Funding Mechanism Year Formula Speciala Other Total 1980 200.7 78.3 6.5 285.5 1981 217.6 80.1 5.9 303.6 1982 232.6 76.8 6.3 315.7 1983 247.6 75.6 5.4 328.6 1984 253.2 75.6 5.5 334.3 1985 260.2 77.6 5.9 343.7 1986 260.2 78.9 5.5 344.6 1987 254.1 78.6 6.3 339.0 1988 260.8 80.2 16.9 357.9 1989 260.8 82.0 18.6 361.4 1990 265.1 86.4 18.2 369.7 1991 276.4 103.4 18.7 398.5 1992 288.5 110.0 20.9 419.4 1993 288.5 118.0 18.4 424.9 1994 298.1 117.4 19.1 434.6 1995b 298.1 121.4 13.2 432.7 NOTE: Totals include appropriations for other federal agencies, federal administration, legislative set-asides, and allocations to states. a "Special" funds are those earmarked by Congress for specific types of services. b President's budget request. SOURCE: Data were provided by the USDA Office of Budget and Program Analysis.
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile FIGURE 5-2 During 1992 extension staff divided their time (full-time equivalent [FTE] staff years) among base programs involving farm service, community development, natural resource management, and consumer education programs. Extension specialists are located at every land grant college of agriculture, and extension agents operate in almost every county in the nation. Figure 5-2 shows the distribution of each region's extension staff among Cooperative Extension's seven base program areas. Extension staff are located mostly in the south (Texas has by far the largest program) and in the north-central region of the country (there staff are more evenly distributed across states). About 30 percent of extension staff are located in the west and northeast in approximately equal numbers (see Appendix Table 3 for state-by-state extension staff allocations). The regional distribution of extension staff roughly mirrors the regional distribution of the nation's rural population (Figure 5-3).
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile FIGURE 5-3 In 1992 the largest number of extension staff was in the southern region. The geographic allocation of extension staff relates closely to the distribution of the nation's rural population. Agricultural competitiveness and profitability were the goals of the largest base program in 1992, accounting for about one-third of all extension staff years. However, the efforts of 45 percent of extension staff were targeted toward the four related goals of community development, family development, youth development, and leadership development—programs that may be applicable in both rural and urban areas (Figure 5-4).
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile FIGURE 5-4 Charts show national allocation, by program area, of extension staff and SAES research scientists for 1992. The averages cited above belie some pronounced differences across states. For example, California, with a highly developed commercial agriculture, devotes more than one-half of its extension staff years to "agricultural competitiveness and profitability"; while West Virginia, with a larger low-income population, allocates two-thirds of its extension staff to programs aimed at the development of communities, families, youth, and leadership (Appendix Table 3).
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Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile Extension staff—both specialists at the colleges and agents at the county level—often draw on information generated by the research of SAES scientists. The allocation of extension staff and research scientists among program areas is, however, quite different. Of the research scientists' time, 64 percent was allocated in 1992 to research that could directly benefit farm productivity (such as research on plant and animal systems) and the sales of farm products (such as research on "processing for value added"). Only 13 percent was directly targeted toward social science issues (which would include rural, community, and leadership development) (Figure 5-4). Similarly, 10 percent of extension staff was assigned to nutrition, diet and health programs, in contrast to the 4 percent of research scientists that reported research in these areas (Figure 5-4). ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION Does the research-extension continuum, for which the land grant system is so well known, still function well? Is extension responding to a different set of national, state, and local needs than is college-based agricultural research? Would an expansion of nutrition and social science research provide a sounder base for extension activities in nutrition education and community and rural development? What is the role of independent private crop consultants and agricultural input firms vis-à-vis public extension services? What indicators might be developed to measure the benefits of public investments in extension programs? SUGGESTED READINGS U.S. Department of Agriculture, Extension Service. Cooperative Extension Roles and Relationships for a New Era. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1990. Feller, Irwin, et al. Agricultural Technology Delivery System, 5 vols. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1984. Natural Resources and Environment Division, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. AREI Updates: Crop Consultants, No. 3. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1995. Rasmussen, Wayne D. Taking the University to the People: Seventy-Five Years of Cooperative Extension. Ames:Iowa State University Press, 1989.
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