New Study Contends Federal Cooperative Extension Programs Helping Keep Farmers in BusinessThu, 21 Apr 2016 05:30:18 CDT
Federal cooperative extension programs were developed to help researchers in the agriculture industry and, in turn, individual farmers in the United States.
According to a new study, an estimated 137,000 farmers would have left the fields in the past 25 years if it weren’t for these programs.
In his paper, “State Cooperative Extension Spending and Farmer Exits,” Stephan Goetz of Penn State University examines the value of extension services in an era in which fewer farmers are needed to produce food in the U.S. than in previous generations.
“The underlying concern is, if we are losing farmers at too fast a pace we may not be able to grow our own food,” Goetz said.
This paper, co-authored by Meri Davlasheridze of Texas A&M-Galveston, was recently chosen to be published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. It not only looks at policy and agriculture, but also the impact on traditional farming communities in rural areas; where cuts in extension funding could lead to a big economic downturn.
“The historical transition of farmers out of U.S. agriculture raises the question of whether cooperative extension and underlying Hatch-funded research spending keeps farmers in agriculture or accelerates their exit,” noted Goetz and co-author Meri Davlasheridze of Texas A&M University-Galveston.
Nearly 500,000 more farmers left than entered agriculture over the period studied, the researchers found. “We estimate that without extension, as many as 137,700 (or 28%) additional farmers would have disappeared on net. Overall, extension programs are a remarkably cost-effective way of keeping farmers in agriculture,” they said.
Alternatively, the authors suggested that shifting just 1.5% of federal farm program payments to extension programs would have reduced net exits over this period by an estimated 11%, or 55,000 farmers.
“There is tremendous return to the community,” Goetz said. “The numbers are clear. These services are making an impact. (Extension services) are helping create and keep jobs and doing it for less money.”
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