These developments are requiring LGCAs in some parts of the country to rethink their partnerships with some farm and ranch client groups.
Along with changes in the farm sector, the national interest in the performance of the food and agricultural system, of which farming is one component, has evolved over the decades to reflect a wider array of public expectations. The modern food and agricultural system encompasses primary production, processing, marketing, and retailing—consumer-oriented activities that now provide 18 percent of U.S. employment, 16 percent of "value added" to domestic production, and substantial contributions to the nation's export earnings. The food and agricultural system includes, as well, the interaction of these economic activities with natural resources and the environment, human communities and their well-being, and consumer health, safety, and ethics—interactions often difficult to evaluate in economic terms but clearly valued by contemporary society. Expanding global population, tightening global resource constraints, and environmental quality and food safety concerns combine to underscore the need for continued improvement in the productivity and sustainability of the food and agricultural system and the quality and safety of its products.
The committee assessed the adaptations of each of the three functions of the LGCAs—teaching, research, and extension—to the colleges' contemporary environment and the U.S. public's changing needs and priorities. A national science and education infrastructure that underpins continued advances in performance of the food and agricultural system, and federal support of that infrastructure, remain squarely in the national interest. The committee identified, however, four principal areas for change. Specifically, within the LGCA system there is
Twenty recommendations were developed to enhance the ability of the LGCAs to respond to the challenges posed by these themes (see Recommendations Table).
LGCAs should garner effective input from a wide variety of stakeholders; receipt of federal (USDA-administered) funds—both formula funds and competitive grants—should be contingent on the demonstration of such input (Chapter 2, Recommendation 1). LGCAs have a responsibility, based on their philosophical roots and legislative mandate, to be relevant and accessible to the general public and particularly to citizens of ordinary means. However, many of today's food and agricultural system beneficiaries, such as urban and suburban residents and environmentalists, have little knowledge of or connection to many of the LGCAs. These connections should be enhanced to ensure that resource allocation at LGCAs increasingly reflects the broad and diverse national interest in the food and agricultural system, an outcome crucial to extending the colleges' relevance into the 21st century.