Implications for the Future

Involving the Stakeholders

Emerging from this overview of the modern food and agricultural system are some important implications for the LGCAs' research, extension, and education programs. First, the overview highlights the high expectations the U.S. public has for the performance of its food and agricultural system and the diversity of the food and agricultural system's beneficiaries or stakeholders. The logical conclusion is that these stakeholders be involved in shaping the research and education agenda and that the projects and programs undertaken reflect their expectations. However, many beneficiaries of the food and agricultural system (such as urban and suburban residents) have had little knowledge of or connection to the college of agriculture, in spite of the fact that they, as consumers and taxpayers, clearly have a stake in the outcomes of the colleges' programs and activities. Unfortunately some groups (consumer and environmental groups, small and ''alternative" farmers, minorities, low-income families) have felt or been perceived to be under-served or excluded (Beus and Dunlap, 1992; Castle, 1981; Debertin, 1993; Hassebrook and Hegyes, 1989; Madden, 1986; Marston, 1993; Strange, 1982), despite the fact that public funds provide the majority of the LGCA system's resources for research and extension and support academic programs as well.

A 1982 survey (which unfortunately has not been updated) showed that approximately 25 percent of U.S. households had ever contacted or used the extension service; approximately 10 percent had in the prior year (Warner and Christenson, 1984). Although the largest number of users lived in metropolitan counties, the largest percentage of users were nonmetropolitan (43 percent) as opposed to metropolitan (23 percent) residents, and more farmers (57 percent) were users than nonfarmers (25 percent). Users and nonusers also differed in demographics: younger and older adults were underrepresented in relation to middle-aged adults; blacks were underrepresented in relation to whites; and low-income families were underrepresented in relation to middle- and upper-middle income families (Warner and Christenson, 1984.)

Broadening and diversifying effective input into the priority-setting process is crucial to building the relevance of the Lucas' programs to a broader cross section of the population. It is a step that has a potential payoff for the colleges' traditional agricultural clientele because expanding input and participation by diverse groups is an important means of broadening the constituency base for food and agricultural science and education. Expanding access and participation also helps ensure that consumers and a broader set of potential users are familiar with production technologies developed at the colleges and can contribute effectively to assessments of the benefits and costs to society.

In fact, in recent years many colleges have begun to take the important step of soliciting broad stakeholder input and participation. For example, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, through its Food Systems Professions Education Initiative, has funded 12 collaborative visioning processes (representing 26 universities in 21 states) designed to draw diverse constituencies together to focus on the role, mission, and structure of food systems education programs for the future (W. K. Kellogg Foundation). Resource adjustments are, however, difficult for all institutions, and many of the major issues of significant concern to the nation's communities and citizens have appeared to command minor portions of the Lucas' resources. These include (not ordered by priority) food safety, the linkages between diet and health, environmental quality, economic and equity issues such as opportunities for small-scale and family farms, rural vitality, and poverty and access to food (Reichelderfer, 1991; Robbers and Smith, 1995). For example, in the Profile report (Table 4-6:pp. 64-65), based on statistics from the USDA Current Research Information System (CRIS), which solicits and aggregates data about research conducted by experiment station and cooperating institution scientists, the data show that in 1992 "food and nutrition for optimal health" commanded a little more than 3 percent of total scientist years and "social sciences issues" accounted for approximately 12 percent of all scientist years (National Research Council, 1995a). In 1994—using a slightly different aggregation



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