What’s the connection between public education and science in agriculture?

Without a solid education, farmers and scientists who work in agriculture-related science would not succeed. Farming requires science which means that farmers need a solid education. As well, the folks who study water quality, agronomy, agricultural engineering, and seed science must learn both the content of their fields as well as research methology.

Unfortunately, states in the midwest are  shirking their duty in funding public higher education. This is true in Minnesota, where I work at a university and it is true in Iowa and Wisconsin. These three states account for 3 of the most important land-grant universities where much agricultural research is done: University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, and Iowa State University.

This point was put well in On Wisconsin (Spring 2015) by Kirstie Danielson, a 2007 Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Writing about Wisconsin, “…the state is failing in its moral responsibility to support affordable education and opportunities for its citizens to prosper, abdicating the responsibility to overly burdened middle-class families.” She continues, “Let’s therefore hold our elected officials responsible to make sure that all who profit from an educated citizenry reinvest in future generations.”

So, the connection is that farmers and agriculture-related researchers need high-quality science-based higher education. Without this grounding in science, in climate change, seed science, water quality, soil conservation, precision agriculture, and agronomic research, the future of agriculture is in jeopardy.

Unexpected consequences of “progress”.

Bullsnake killed on the road in front of my house on June 13, 2013. Bullsnakes are not venomous eventhough they look like rattlesnakes.

Bull snake killed on the road in front of my house on June 13, 2013. Bull snakes are not venomous even though they look like rattlesnakes.

Progress is a value-laden term. One person’s progress (the internal combustion engine, for example) is another’s worst nightmare (the parent of a child who is killed in an automobile crash.)

The rural road in front of my house was paved about 10 years ago. Now it is more dangerous due to more traffic that drives faster. On the other hand, we don’t have the dust drifting into our house with the northwest breeze either.

This morning, I found two victims of our road traffic (or you might say, victims of progress), a squashed young snapping turtle and a bullsnake on my road.

Bullsnakes (also known as gopher snakes) are in fact a very beneficial species to have around even if their behavior seems a little aggressive. They help keep the rodent population down.

More later on the term “progress” and what it means for us in the countryside.

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