Projects in Development

Land-Grant Universities Confronting 21st Century Challenges: A Big Opportunity in Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources

BANR is proposing to organize a two-day meeting to convene leading thinkers from the public and private sector to consider how the historic research, education, and extension mission of land-grant and other universities can align more effectively with contemporary societal challenges in agriculture, food, and natural resources (AFNR), both domestically and globally.

Positioning the land-grant universities to address the complexity of issues, such as the global food challenge, is a big opportunity that cannot be achieved without changes in the supporting infrastructure for education, research, and extension activities. Among the possible requirements for success of this vision are foremost, the creation of a communal ownership of a vision for the land-grant institutions by a partnership of universities, businesses, federal and state governments, and philanthropic organizations; and secondly, the development of trans-disciplinary and geographic networks to create broader understanding of the systems challenges in AFNR.  In addition, changes in institutional priorities that recognize the value of a trans-disciplinary environment are needed along with enhanced funding to support the larger team efforts that will be essential to employ the full complement of disciplines and converging technologies.

The workshop will build on a 2012 National Research Council report, Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nations’ Prosperity and Security.   The workshop is intended to be provocative, interactive, and results-oriented.  Its main goals are: 1) to clearly identify the major opportunities around the AFNR issues that could (or should) be addressed by land-grant and other institutions; 2) to identify the infrastructure and changes needed to grasp those opportunities and 3) to launch a plan of action for taking initial and subsequent steps to position the land-grant universities in a leadership role on these issues.

Workforce Needs in Agriculture

A strong and well-trained workforce in U.S. agriculture is necessary for the nation to meet the challenges of maintaining long-term adequacy of food, feed, fiber and biofuels. Although the United States has been a leader in global agricultural development, there are concerns that not enough skilled technical workers have been trained to meet the growing demands of the agricultural sciences. BANR proposes to convene a series of workshops under the framework of a consensus study to examine available data on students trained in the United States in various disciplines relevant to agriculture, assess information on agricultural workforce needs of academia, federal agencies and industry, and to discuss the education and training needs and how to attract future students to agricultural sciences.

Although there is anecdotal evidence of a shortage of a skilled agricultural workforce, the workforce pipeline is not well characterized. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education might have data on students trained in agriculture, but the available data are not necessarily organized in a way that would facilitate an assessment of workforce supply. On the demand side, the quantities of trained personnel needed and the expertise and skill required to fill jobs in industry, government, and academe have not been well-documented. The workforce needs range from BS graduates, for example, to conduct field work and studies, MS graduates to carry out a management plan, and Ph.D. researchers and project managers. The workforce needs for academia, federal agencies, and industry are likely to differ by disciplines, skill sets, and experience.

Collecting information on workforce supply and demand and getting representatives from different types of institutional employers to interpret the data would be a first step towards workforce planning in agriculture. A discussion of possible ways to attract students to agricultural and food science now would be helpful in addressing any gaps between workforce supply and demand in the future. The ultimate goal is to get “the right number of people with the right skills, experiences, and competencies in the right jobs at the right time” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). To bring national focus to the issue of workforce planning in agriculture, the NRC proposes to conduct a study encompassing a series of workshops.  The first would focus on the needs related to plant sciences; the second on animal science and production; other workshop would cover additional fields and industry sectors.

For more information on BANR's projects-in-development, send an email to Robin Schoen -