Extending a Hand

Posted: March 29, 2013

Frank provides a glimpse of all the College of Ag Sciences does for the state, nation, and world.
Penn State Extension educators at work during our college's annual Ag Progress Days event

Penn State Extension educators at work during our college's annual Ag Progress Days event

Penn State's not hard to find. We have 24 campuses and  67 Penn State Extension offices across the state, offering research, information, aid, and support to citizens in every county, especially farmers and natural resource managers. We operate multiple research centers, from mushroom labs to E. coli reference centers. We partner with state and federal agencies like the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the USDA to assist at their facilities. We are set to improve food, fiber, and fuel production while being better stewards of the environment. With a world expected to reach a population of about 9 billion in the next 40 years, these are real issues we’re working with.

Friends of mine from Ag Advocates recently went to the Capital Day in Harrisburg where they, along with over 100 Penn State Ag Sciences alumni, faculty, and friends, discussed these programs with state legislators. We’re Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university. The Morrill Act, which founded the land-grant system, was intended to provide affordable higher education for growing agricultural and technical needs in America, so that in Justin Morrill’s words, we could “feed, clothe, and enlighten the great brotherhood of man.” And for the past 150 years, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Unfortunately, economic troubles and recent state and federal budget cuts have made this mission especially challenging for the College of Ag Sciences.

Our college’s programs aren’t supported by tuition like the other colleges at Penn State: the land-grant mission depends on federal, state, and county funding, which support crucial services and research for Pennsylvania, the nation, and world. This means state budget cuts hit our college directly, as was the case in 2010 when Penn State lost 19% of its funding. This also means it’s becoming harder to provide our services for Pennsylvania citizens, making the support our advocates brought to Harrisburg all the more crucial.

Penn State may be a state institution, but our reach extends beyond state lines--we work with federal agencies and have researchers stationed worldwide. For example, we have scientists in Africa developing new methods and technologies to help the continent sustainably overcome its food crisis. We have researchers developing increasingly affordable food to prevent health problems. By understanding taste, we strive to make healthy food the preferred choice! Of course, we’re losing no time in combating disease in plants and animals, as well as food-borne illnesses. As Pennsylvania contains 40% of the Chesapeake Bay’s contributing waterways, we have been helping producers adopt methods that are restoring the Bay to its former health. And of course, we are keeping up with the booming Marcellus shale industry.

Hopefully we Pennsylvania citizens and Ag Sciences advocates can continue to help state legislators understand what a vital asset our college is. Seeing Penn State reaching out for the sake of our producers and natural resources is a big reason I’m here, and even if indirectly, I intend to become a part of that when I graduate! Ag Sci isn’t just a college; it’s a necessity.