resources. The system, however, has the potential to draw on its resources more efficiently through regional initiatives and centers; through multi-institutional, collaborative efforts in teaching, research, and extension; and through the use of advanced information and communications technologies. The committee refers to these types of arrangements as a "new geography." The internal incentives to undertake multistate and multi-institutional collaborative activities have been lacking in the past. They may, however, be increasing with growing constraints on individual state and university resources; and, as recommended below, the federal government can enhance the system's incentives to collaborate through the design of its grant programs.

In the system's early years there was strong justification for a land grant college located in every state—farming was the country's principal occupation and industry, the nation was sparsely populated, transportation networks were poorly developed, rural people were isolated, and there was very little access to higher education for the working classes. The federal land grants (and later cash grants) were an important motivation to states to initiate and support colleges, particularly ones that would focus on studies useful to the advancement of peoples' economic status and the country's industrial base (Cochrane, 1979). Although a college in every state was the logical ideal at the time of the system's inception, the committee does not believe there is any ideal number of colleges of agriculture either today or in the future. Given modern transportation and telecommunication networks, and the nature of modern food and agricultural system issues and science opportunities, there are many opportunities and reasons for more efficiently and effectively utilizing the system's resources. This new geography can capitalize on the diversity that already exists within the land grant system.

The original land grant colleges share legislative roots in the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, Hatch Act, and Smith-Lever Act. National-and regional-level research, extension, and academic planning committees link the institutions' agendas in a very general way, as described above. Scientists collaborate across institutions; there are examples of regional research efforts; "articulation" and "bridging" agreements (written agreements that facilitate the transfer of students among institutions and the exchange of academic credits) exist; and the use of the Internet as an educational platform is occurring, as examples in this report indicate. Many of these efforts are, however, informal or have the potential to be much more effective.

The Case for a New Geography Has Several Foundations and Dimensions

First, states are often not the best unit of organization or operation for food and agricultural system issues. There are many issues and problems that call for regional or multi-institutional efforts. Many natural resource and environmental issues, such as watershed management, cross state lines. Many consumer issues, such as nutrition and disease, know no political boundaries, or they may be specific to similar populations located in spatially separate areas of the country—such as the relationship between diet and non-insulin dependent diabetes in the Hispanic population (American Diabetes Association, 1993). Even within the farm sector, production issues are often pertinent to producers in a region that comprises all or parts of several states or regions in several noncontiguous states. In fact, statistical analysis reported in the Profile report (National Research Council, 1995a:pp. 93–96) suggests that significant regionalization of research focus has already occurred within the LGCA system. The analysis shows that LGCAs can be grouped into regional clusters defined by the focus of their commodity-specific research. For example, five contiguous states have research programs that emphasize corn, soybeans, and hogs; eight contiguous states have research programs focused on cattle, wheat, and vegetables; two contiguous states emphasize rice, soybeans, and beef cattle (Figure 7-4, p. 95, in the Profile report).

Second, a broadened research and education agenda requires more efficiency. Every college cannot do everything; regional and multi-institutional collaborations would enable individual institutions to become more specialized, and to develop more depth in



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement