The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America are partners in the Coalition for a Sustainable Agricultural Workforce (CSAW), which recently sent a strong message to Washington, DC-- help prevent the spread of misconceptions about agriculture by supporting increasing agricultural research and education funding to meet the challenge of feeding the world.
A letter to U.S. Senate and House members of the Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture outlines the issues and strategic answers. This direct communication with Congress follows misleading information about career opportunities in agriculture-related programs in a recent article posted on Yahoo - Education.
Read the letter sent directly to Subcommittee members of influence from all CSAW partners, along with an earlier "Letter to the Editor," as signed by the President of each Science Society and the Chief Executive Officer. It has appeared in several highly-regarded publications and newspapers in an effort to inform the public about the critical need for graduates with agriculture-related degrees and highlights the latest food contamination scare as one example.
January 31, 2012
CSAW Letter Sent to Individual Members of the
U.S. Senate and House Committee on Appropriations,
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development & Related Agencies
On behalf of the Coalition for a Sustainable Agricultural Workforce (CSAW), a novel partnership of more than 10 professional scientific societies and 20 agricultural companies formed to promote the education and training of future generations of the agricultural workforce, we want to thank you for your ongoing support and leadership of agricultural research funding and bring to your attention the increasing need for agricultural science investments and the importance of clear messages about agriculture.
CSAW was formed in response to the growing body of data that documents a significant demand for relevantly trained students to enter the workforce in agricultural and food-related jobs over the next decade. Retirements alone are anticipated to necessitate replacement of more than 50% of the agricultural scientific workforce in government and industry in the next decade. The documentation came from not only government studies and commissions, such as the National Academies, but also from the government agencies and industries needing the workers.
As our global population is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050, we face unprecedented challenges to produce sufficient food, feed, and fiber. Over the next 40 years, we must produce more food than has been produced over the past 10,000 years combined. Failure to meet this goal will cause food insecurity in many parts of the world, leading to instability in the global, geopolitical landscape. Agriculture is essential for human health and wellness.
To create a more sustainable future, we must prepare new scientists with international perspectives to bring novel and revolutionary approaches to agro-ecosystem management. However, we face mounting obstacles in attracting the best and brightest students into scientific fields of study to assure a plentiful and safe supply of food, fuel, and fiber. The National Academies’ report, “Rising above the Gathering Storm,” stresses that “the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding.” This erosion is especially prominent among the scientific disciplines that generate the fundamental information underpinning the advances required from our agricultural enterprise.
Misconceptions and an increasingly narrow view of agriculture, as referenced in the recent post by Yahoo regarding “useless degrees in agriculture, horticulture, and animal science” (http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm), are the type of misleading messages negatively impacting agriculture and steering students away from careers in the agricultural sciences.
At a time when the grand challenges have never been greater and the need for investment is critical, budget constraints have resulted in the steady decline of agricultural research and education at land-grant universities. This is of even greater concern given that all disciplines report a decline in the number of highly qualified students entering their fields. Students with high intellectual capacity and interest in the fundamental sciences need to be made aware of the opportunities to work with food and environmental issues. Once recruited, these students need to have the opportunities to engage in experiential learning to develop a working knowledge applicable to related industries. Educational programs must prepare students to be the leaders and strategic thinkers in the development and implementation of sustainable agro-ecosystems to meet the grand challenges facing society, and in doing so, enhance global security and the quality of life for all global citizens.
We strongly urge you to ensure that the FY2013 appropriations bill increases funding for agricultural research and education, and broadens the opportunities for students.
With federal support, we can develop new partnerships to attract students and educate them in the agricultural sciences for a career path as highly skilled food scientists, nutritionists and dieticians, agronomists, entomologists, plant pathologists, plant breeders, soil scientists, and weed scientists. This is necessary to make the scientific advances essential to meet future production and sustainability challenges, while controlling new and emerging invasive pathogens and weed and insect species that will continue to threaten the world food supply.
Coalition for a Sustainable Agricultural Workforce
The American Phytopathological Society
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Farm Managers and
Agrotain International LLC
Crop Science Society of America
CID Bio-Science, Inc.
Deere and Company
Dole Fresh Vegetables
Dow AgroSciences LLC
Entomological Society of America
Gylling Data Management, Inc.
International Plant Nutrition Institute
J. R. Simplot Company
National Council for Agricultural Education
National FFA Organization
Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business
Rural Sociological Society
Soil Science Society of America
Weed Science Society of America
Winfield Solutions, LLC, a Land O’Lakes Co.
January 25, 2012
It’s happened again. Tests by a company of its brand-name orange juice turned up low levels of fungicide. But even as the report went on to indicate the amount was below federal safety concerns and didn’t pose a health risk—alarm bells sounded around the world.
Issues related to the safety and security of our food supply top the news on a regular basis. However, a recent article about the future of the business as posted on Yahoo-Education is the type of report doing more harm to agriculture than good.
Separate statistical data from the United States Department of Labor and United States Department of Agriculture indicates an expected growth in most agriculture-related fields including inspectors, scientists and veterinarians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over the next five years, there will be a 5% increase in the need for graduates in these disciplines, but a 10% decline in the number of students choosing these important programs as their career path. This means a shortfall of qualified workers in the areas where we need them most—plants, food, animals and climate change or environmental analysts. But, there are also growing opportunities in industries linked to the business of agriculture; from trucking to coffee and beer brewing, dietetic concerns to animal welfare and pet foods.
According to Yahoo’s article, students majoring in agriculture-related disciplines are wasting their time and money. Yet,, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests an 8% increase in the need for qualified, well-educated Ag Managers; citing quickly advancing technological methods of farming across the U.S. and abroad, along with changes in regulations at all Government levels.
The bottom line— agriculture isn’t dead. In fact, no other industry feeds the world’s population which, according to the latest research, will hit 9 billion by 2050. Instead, the need for graduates in agriculture, horticulture and animal science programs will be critical to finding ways of safely doubling food production in order to meet the demand of a growing population. The many facets offer a chance to make a difference. By helping agriculture thrive—we keep the rest of humanity alive.
Jeffrey Volenec, President, Crop Science Society of America
Kenneth Barbarick, President, American Society of Agronomy
Gary Pierzynski, President, Soil Science Society of America
Ellen Bergfeld, C.E.O., Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies