Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

The 21st Century Land Grant Economist

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

The 21st Century Land Grant Economist

Article excerpt

The land grant system is a value-added infrastructure, designed to extend the boundaries of traditional colleges and universities to bring science to bear on the pressing needs and problems of underserved citizens and communities. With supplemental resources to support mission-oriented research and outreach, the system has addressed a market failure in higher education. It has been a key asset in achieving for the United States a vibrant agricultural economy, a prominent position in world trade, significant rural development, healthy families and communities, and the increasingly sustainable natural resource base that are characteristic of "the great American Society." This paper explores some of the recent challenges facing the land grant system, provides a framework for examining these challenges, and stresses the need for a new cadre of "land grant economists" to provide leadership as land grants struggle to identify new visions, missions, programs, and innovations that would serve as the bedrock of a new system. Selected areas of emerging opportunities for land grant intervention are also identified.

Key Words: economists, land grant system, 21st century

I am very thankful to my colleagues, the members of the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association (NAREA), for my selection as the second recipient of the Award for Outstanding Public Service Through Economics. Being put in the company of Bruce Gardner, the only other person to have received this award, is an honor of immense proportion, considering Bruce's stature in the profession. Bruce, in fact, has been a mentor of mine for a long time and a colleague I admke greatly. I cannot help but feel that his counsel over the years contributed to my career, and hence to this recognition.

This is not the first time I have been recognized professionally, but because this acknowledgment is coming from NAREA, it is a significant tribute, which I cherish greatly. NAREA has nurtured my career and given me the opportunity for solidarity with many of you, my colleagues in the profession. More importantly, NAREA has provided me with an invaluable outlet for my thoughts as a scholar through the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review (ARER) and its predecessor, the Northeastern Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics (NJARE). My first refereed journal article as a graduate student was published in the NJARE, and I recall the great time I had as a member of NAREA, especially while serving on the Board of Directors.

It was not difficult to choose a topic for my acceptance speech at the NAREA award ceremony, as I think the greatest policy challenge facing the agricultural economics profession today is how to redefine and reposition the profession and the broader land grant system to be current and poised for the 21 st century. I believe the leaders of thought in our profession must continue to hammer on the need for professional rebirth. I do-every opportunity I get. I commenced my thinking on this issue six years ago when then NAREA President, C. Bobby Gempesaw, asked me to give a keynote address at the NAREA meeting. This presentation eventually culminated in my 1997 article on the challenges facing the agricultural economics profession and the land grant system in general in the 21st century.

Here, I take my 1997 concerns further by revisiting the history of the land grant system, evaluating the rationale for its existence, identifying recent changes in its political and economic environments, highlighting some of the recent complaints about its effectiveness, identifying important issues that agricultural economists can help champion if they are to maintain their stature within the system, conceptualizing the framework within which the ideal land grant product of the future will be produced, and discussing the characteristics of the ideal land grant economist of the future. Of course, my views are predicated upon the strong assumption that the agricultural economics profession (and its sibling disciplines) has the will and capability to re-invent itself to maintain its relevance and the special status it has enjoyed hitherto in American higher education. …

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