- Posted By: Lynn M. Sosnoskie
- Written by: Lynn M. Sosnoskie
How valuable is an agricultural degree? According to Terrence Loose (http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm), citing the U.S. Department of Labor's statistics and Newsweek's Daily Beast.com's "20 Most Useless Degrees" report, not very much. In rebuttal, a former UGA alum published this reply (http://rebekahbowen.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/an-open-letter-to-terence-loose-on-the-future-of-agriculture-careers/) and made a few good points about the value of statistics and how data collection/sample size/sample type can affect output. Regardless of who you side with, the topic really makes you stop and think about the past, present, and future of agriculture…and agriculture education.
The world’s population was estimated to have increased to 7 billion people in 2011. Depending on who supplies your numbers, almost 30% of us (2 billion!) have/are/will experience some degree of food insecurity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_security). Most assuredly, a significant proportion of this problem is due to political and economic machinations that are likely beyond the direct influence of most people in the agricultural community. For example, many have suggested (and I’m not taking sides as I am not as familiar with the details as I should be) that land grabs in Africa by multinational corporations to produce biofuels will exacerbate the problem of already perilous food shortages. Mother Nature also wields a sharp sword; recent floods in Pakistan and last year’s drought in Texas severely impacted global cotton supply.
Given the circumstances complicating our ability to grow and supply this world with food and fiber, it seems to me that agricultural scientists should be in high demand. We are the ones who are charged with economically AND sustainably facilitating the production our world’s commodities (and I’m not just talking corn, cotton, rice, and soybeans, here…I mean ALL plant and animal products). As we achieve these goals (and, oh, how we are all working hard towards this), we will 1) be able to overcome the maneuverings of a few and 2) will be better able to weather changing environmental conditions. We (crop and animal breeders, crop physiologists, plant pathologists, soil scientists, weed ecologists, etc...) need to make everyone who thinks that their food comes from a “supermarket” understand the pivotal role that agriculture plays in our world’s development. I’m sure that other scientific disciplines are decidedly more, how shall I put this, “sexy,” but we need to position ourselves so that the general population will see, understand, and respect what we do. And we need to continue to draw the brightest minds to our fields. Then, people won’t see our schools and departments simply as “cow colleges" and "the spray and pray crews." And maybe we won’t end up on a list of useless degrees.
Is this blog long on words and short on action? Possibly. But it is where I am starting from. First came anger, and then came reason. And now I’m ready to get back to work and put my agriculture degree to use…