Future Agricultural Leaders' Perceptions on Their Industry

By Watson, Susan | NACTA Journal, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Future Agricultural Leaders' Perceptions on Their Industry


Watson, Susan, NACTA Journal


Abstract

To gauge how agricultural students perceive environmental, social, and economic issues, it is necessary to determine what factors influence the risk and importance levels associated with current agricultural issues. Students (n = 112) at Louisiana Tech University majoring in agriculture were surveyed to gauge their perceptions on major issues in their industry. Issues identified by the students as the most important included: conserving natural resources, improving water quality and quantity, researching alternative fuels, and preserving endangered species. Statistical differences were found based on gender, GPA, age, academic major, background place of residence, among others. Overall, conserving natural resources and water quality and quantity issues were deemed more important than marketing, food preservation, technology, small farm survival, and labeling genetically altered food, indicating a preference for conserving rather than stimulating the economy or improving marketing or production practices.

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Introduction

The U. S. agricultural industry is a highly diverse industry that operates in a globally competitive market. Technology has also not only improved production and marketing efficiencies, but created the need for a more educated work force. In a time of rising energy prices and concern over the environment, producers and agribusinesses must find a way to be more and more competitive in a world of scarcity. Perceptions of undergraduate students in agriculture will greatly impact future decisions in the agricultural industry. Many of the Agribusiness students go on to hold political offices or jobs with political influence in agricultural policy. Graduates also go on to work for many of the USDA regulatory agencies such as Natural Resource Conservation Services and the Foreign Agricultural Services that interpret and give preference to projects mandated under the Farm Bill. These leaders shape the economics, political and social environment in which agriculture operates (Elliott and Seldon, 1997; Rasinski and Smith, 1994). Current legislation shows a trend of increased environmental concern as evidenced by the 80% increase in environmental spending in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, which is the current agricultural legislation set to ... 2007 as opposed to the legislation it replaced (Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, 2002).

In Louisiana, the current state of agriculture could alter students' perceptions about their industry. Thus, it is important to lay the background for the short and long term issues relating to the Louisiana agricultural industry. Recently, Louisiana has experienced many weather related losses and financial difficulties (LSU AgCenter). For long-term survival, producers are facing decisions on how to diversify and retrieve more income from their land. Hunting leases, value-added marketing, and carbon sequestration banking are a few of the options being explored to maintain future competitiveness with other states. Louisiana is also facing water shortages through the depletion of many of the underground aquifers. Wetlands continue to decrease with a loss of over 1500 square miles of since 1930. To compound these problems, Louisiana is a state where three-fourths of the Parishes are considered poverty Parishes (LSU AgCenter).

Students studying agriculture in undergraduate institutions form perceptions about the importance levels associated with a diverse array of topics in agriculture. These perceptions will accompany them into their careers, where they will become decision-makers, teachers, extension agents, managers, lobbyists, etc. As times change, it is important to understand which issues are of importance to these future agricultural industry leaders. For example, is small farm survival more or less important than controlling environmental runoff that could affect groundwater? …

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