Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - 2:35 PM

Role of US Agricultural Science and Education in the Age of Global Competitiveness.

Scott Angle, Univ of Georgia, 101 Conner Hall, Athens, GA 30602-7501

American agriculture is at a crossroad.  Competition from foreign countries, rising costs of production, labor shortages, increasing regulation and potential changes in farm subsidies have made farming, ranching and forestry an uncertain proposition at best.  The number of US farms has been decreasing for the past 50 years, often as a direct result of the factors noted above.  The rate of loss has been slowed by past Farm Bills.  The 2007 Farm Bill currently under development is likely to take a vastly different approach to agriculture production in that farmers will be paid for public good rather than the previously vain attempt to manipulate either production or price.  Past programs rewarded farmers to leave land out of production thus allowing prices to rise as demand increased and availability decreased.  More recent attempts by the federal government have set minimum price supports, which unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, resulted in significantly lower commodity prices as supply exceeded demand.  Many within the agriculture community argue that the public good of agriculture should be rewarded by society, through new government programs.  Agriculture provides clean water, soil and air, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and reduced crime and infrastructure.  Even the scenic vistas provided as one drives from the interior to the seaside has intrinsic value to the public.  How to value these attributes and what process is used to reward farmers, remains to be determined.  These issues will be discussed in addition to the role public institutions play in valuing the intrinsic good of farming operations.  Dr. Edward Kanemasu, throughout his long and distinguished career, has demonstrated the environmental and economic benefits of agriculture far beyond the typical farm gate assessment.  His work will be assessed and highlighted as part of the foundation for new government programs designed to maintain economically viable US farms.