College of Agriculture Unveils
Five-Year Vision to Stakeholders
While some of the nation watched the third and final presidential debate and some watched the New York Yankees clinch a much anticipated baseball subway series with the Mets, the University's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was tuned into the future on issues that could affect the world's population - projected to be at nine billion people by 2050.
Some 100 professional leaders of the College's key constituent organizations attended a four-hour stakeholders' forum on Tuesday evening in the Rome Ballroom. The forum included a reception and dinner and an open and lively discussion on education, research and extension.
"We unveiled our academic plan 2000-2005, solicited the input of leaders from our constituent organizations and had some excellent and appropriate discussions," said Kirklyn M. Kerr, the College's dean.
"Because technology is advancing so rapidly, there's a universal feeling of concern in society today in the areas of agriculture and natural resources," Kerr said. "So in everything we do in education, research and extension, we must also take into account acceptance by society."
In unveiling the College's vision, "Learning for a Sustainable Future," both current and developing investment needs were projected, reflecting a total investment of $4 million annually.
Under current investment needs, the College is seeking $1 million annually in the area of animal health and $1 million in sustainable crop management, figures that have been approved by the Board of Trustees as part of the University's budget request this year. Work in animal health will support such programs as human health issues related to the West Nile virus, the lobster die-off along Connecticut's coast, and animal health protection. In crop management, funds would, among other things, aid research and extension faculty seeking ways to reduce pesticide inputs while maintaining a viable agricultural economy.
The forum also discussed the College's projected future investment needs in five specific areas: biotechnology, aquaculture, food science, sustainability of agriculture and the environment, and workforce development.
Some $350,000 is needed annually in biotechnology to strengthen research, extension and teaching in cloning, gene transfer and development of new crops in support of industry needs.
A similar investment is needed in aquaculture - the cultivation of fish and shellfish for human use - which was described as being hard hit by disease. The potential for economic development in this science is considered great and the College is in the process of developing an undergraduate major.
An annual investment of $500,000 is needed in food science, to include an expanded undergraduate program, establishment of a center for linking government and industry, and additional extension education for the food industry and consumers.
"Food science has given us a selection of convenience foods that will permit you to visit the freezer of your local market on your way home tomorrow night and have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes," said Carol Lammi-Keefe, professor and department head of nutritional sciences. "In the circle of health care professionals and scientists who are struggling to improve the quality of health throughout the lifespan, there is a great need for new functional foods, or foods that promise beneficial human responses over and above the nutritional value of the food," she said. As an example of a functional food, she noted the cereals to which substantial amounts of calcium have been added to ward off osteoporosis. "You can find these products in your supermarkets now," she said.
Also included in the category of development investment was $500,000 for the sustainability of agriculture and the environment in the state, where 60 percent of the land is forested and 90 percent held by private landowners. Funding would be applied to the management and development of wildlife habitat, marketability of forest products, and recreational opportunities.
A $300,000 investment was mentioned in workforce development. This would include developing a work ethic and entrepreneurship in youth and providing life-long learning opportunities for professionals.
Chancellor John D. Petersen welcomed the attendees, who included the presidents and executive directors of dozens of private, non-profit organizations, as well as officials from state agencies involved in a myriad of agricultural and natural resources disciplines, from veterinary science to nutritional sciences. Among the many organizations represented were the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Foodshare, Connecticut Horticultural Society, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Nursery &Landscape Association, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, the Connecticut Audubon Society, the Connecticut Pork Producers' Association, the Eastern Connecticut Landowners Association and the Maple Syrup Producers Association in the state.
"Our stakeholders' forum has the potential to reach up to 30,000 people," said Kerr. "The leaders who attended our program will return to their respective organizations to share our information with their own members."
Kerr said plans are to publish a stakeholders' report on the October event. He also said he hoped the constituent organizations would lend their support on behalf of the University's budget requests when they go before the General Assembly.
The College comprises six departments: agricultural and resource economics, animal science, natural resources management and engineering, nutritional sciences, pathobiology, and plant science; also, the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, the Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, and a number of support units and special programs.
Claudia G. Chamberlain