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.

Major Conclusions And Recommendations

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

  1. the need for greater relevance and accessibility through programs that embody an expanded view of the modern food and agricultural system and through inclusion of a wider array of students, faculty, and clientele of diverse backgrounds and perspectives;
  2. the need to remove historic barriers and, indeed, encourage research, teaching, and extension collaborations that cross disciplines, institutions, and states; to encourage faculty and student exchanges; and to make all programs in the system accessible to as wide a variety of stakeholders as possible—that is, there is a firm need to create a "new geography" that cannot be confined to a locality;
  3. the need for stronger linkages among the equally important functions of teaching, research, and extension as well as the need to reinvigorate the colleges' role as models of the land grant concept and philosophy; and finally,
  4. the need for heightened accountability and quality through competitive processes for funding, guiding principles for the use of public (especially federal) resources, and more regular and critical evaluations of publicly funded programs.
  5. Twenty recommendations were developed to enhance the ability of the LGCAs to respond to the challenges posed by these themes (see Recommendations Table).

    Relevance and Accessibility of the LGCA System

    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.

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