U agriculture policy changes to reflect students’ priorities

Joanna Dornfeld

Agriculture no longer consists only of planting corn and raising livestock. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences wants to reflect those changes through new initiatives announced Tuesday.

The college unveiled new priorities to University faculty, state officials and community members. Emphasizing exemplary education and other initiatives will direct the college’s future, University officials said.

“Hopefully, it will become part of the fabric of the college and then gather momentum on its own,” said Frank Pfleger, plant pathology department head and College Priority Teams co-chairman.

Other new priorities include promoting safe and healthy foods, improving environmental quality, enhancing agricultural systems, revitalizing Minnesota’s rural communities and serving urban communities.

The priorities were not created in response to the Legislature’s call for more accountability at the University.

But they will identify where the trends in agriculture are going and will present new information to the public, said Regent Dallas Bohnsack.

“That will be helpful at the Legislature because it certainly sheds a new light on agriculture,” he said.

The priorities were created in response to changing student needs, said Charles Muscoplat, college dean and agricultural policy vice president.

“Directly, I think these are a good way to describe what we are doing,” said Tina Werk, college student board vice president.

In the 1970s, 80 percent of students in the college majored in traditional agriculture. Now, 80 percent of students major in newer aspects of agriculture, such as agriculture and food business management.

The priorities will direct most faculty hiring, curriculum and research in the newer agricultural areas.

Allocation of funds will begin in November for proposals that incorporate the new priorities.

Research proposals reaching across departments and colleges will receive more consideration for funding. Including faculty from other departments will strengthen research. It is an untapped resource, Pfleger said.

When Muscoplat became dean in 1999, the faculty proposed heading the college in a new direction.

“They were really looking for some basis of decision making,” said Carla Carlson, college dean and chief of staff to the Office of the Vice President for Agricultural Policy.

A faculty committee hosted listening sessions throughout Minnesota to ask citizens what they wanted the to college focus on. University students also helped refine the priorities.

“We can’t do it alone,” Muscoplat told the assembly. “We can produce the knowledge and the research that provides the solutions.”