USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Gale A. Buchanan spoke at the Symposium on Agricultural Research and Extension. A disturbing link between reduced spending on agricultural research and Extension and emerging evidence that the rate of growth in both U.S. and California agricultural productivity is declining was revealed recently in a new study led by UC and University of Minnesota economists.
Although almond yields have increased 86 percent over the last two decades, largely resulting from adoption of improved horticulture techniques developed through publicly-funded agricultural research and development and Extension, a recent U.S. productivity slowdown may reflect past slowdown in growth of public research spending. The consequences could be a decline in global competitiveness for California agriculture.
Dr. Rick Standiford, associate vice president, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, notes there has been a 24 percent reduction in UC Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and Cooperative Extension staff since 1990.
Another concern is that the UC academic staff is expected to shrink through retirement. In the case of almonds, we are currently faced with a shortage of UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors; the almond industry has begun to lose farm advisors to retirement, and within the next 10 years, 66 percent of our UC Extension farm advisors will retire.
The Almond Board of California has supported UC research through grants for more than 30 years. Each year, growers and other industry members attend the Almond Industry Conference, where UC and other researchers present their most recent findings from ABC-supported research in horticulture, the environment, and other areas. This year, the Conference will be held Dec. 10-11.