Needs a Strong National Voice!
Dr. Norman F. Childers, Ph.D.
In fact, all agriculture needs a strong National voice. Whose job is
this? The American Farm Bureau? Local farmer/grower
leadership? Or, is it the responsibility of us all to take part in trying
to build back the former strength and production of our Internationally famous
Land Grant College System- for the growers, the farmers, and certainly the
consumers. It was the envy of world agriculture.
Following is a letter to the President of the American Society of Horticultural
Sciences that summarizes the main problem at the Nation's Land Grant Colleges of
agriculture. Farmers and growers well know their need for reliable
unbiased research, extension and teaching from the LGC System and the growing
integration and influence of big private corporations in their guidance and
service. The private sector now contributes about 60% of the funding for
the LGC agricultural research, accounting for a 4.5% increase yearly since
1980. Federal and state funding has dropped about 8%. More public
money with a limit to private funding is needed for proper operation of the LGC
system. Good safe reliable food is important!!
Back in 1984, at the British Columbia, Canada, Annual Meeting of the American
Society of Horticultural Sciences, a Dr. T.J. Army of the USDA Coop. State
Research Service in Washington, D.C., told a group of horticultural
administrators that federal money allotted directly to and solely to agriculture
now also had been opened for grants submitted from non-Land Grant universities,
such as Harvard and Yale, and that "ag" people would be in competition
with these botanists, biologists, genetic engineers etc., for agricultural
money. Dr. Army's last statement was "So, go at it boys!"
Apparently, it was too late to complain so there were no gripes or plans to try
to make adjustments. It happened... and some of these non-horticultural
high-tech outsiders started moving into horticultural job openings with their
grant money, squeezing out horticulturalists.
Horticulturalists had trouble getting grants, finding that if they mentioned a
crop in a grant application such as apple or tomato, there was little chance of
the grant being allotted. Some tried leaving out a commodity name and
occasionally (two of 10 tries) got a grant. It seemed
"outsiders" had taken over the "decision making committee"
in Washington. In other words, horticulturalists have lost their identity
as qualified to do high-tech research, even though we had been trained and had
been doing productive "basic research" since the 1930's. This
also happened in other areas of agriculture. The trend has broken the
close relationship between agricultural experiment stations and the growers and
farmers that we formerly had (the new faculty does not speak farmer language and
seems disinterested), destroying our ability to work through farmers and get
their full cooperation. The growers also have gradually lost much of their
source of unbiased research information. This trend has hurt the teaching
of horticulture in state universities and the training of teachers and
professionals in the industry. We now are hiring people into horticultural
jobs with little or no training in horticulture to teach horticulture and do
horticulture research. With less public money, applicants for
horticultural jobs must show talent to successfully recruit their own research
money. In summary, the inefficient misdirected grant system in Land Grant
agricultural colleges is the basic problem. How can we get this whole
thing unscrewed? It seems impossible. High-tech research is needed,
but it is out of balance. I believe only a group of powerful farmers and
growers can go to Congress in Washington and get this turned around so we are
back to getting adequate annual budgeting of public money directly to
agricultural deans, then department heads for them to distribute the funds
according to the local farmer/grower needs. That's the way it was up to
about the early 1960's.
In other words, we need an active horticultural oversight group to keep aware of
what goes on, look out for horticulture, promote horticulture, and not let us be
caught off guard heading in the wrong direction.