Beyrouty to hear MFB’s thoughts on UM’s role

Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (June 30, 2015) — When Craig Beyrouty arrives at the University of Maryland in the fall to take over as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, he’ll inherit an institution often praised and deemed critical to the state’s agricultural industry.
He’ll also face some of that community’s concerns as well.
The Maryland Farm Bureau will deliver a report to Beyrouty — scheduled to fill the hole left by departing Dean Cheng-i Wei on Nov. 1 — that will outline the bureau’s wishes for how to return the college to its land-grant mission, said Harry Moreland, a member of the Farm Bureau’s board of directors and chairman of the work group overseeing the report.
Moreland declined to speak in detail about the report’s full scope last week.
“What I am looking for is for the college of agriculture to return to its land grant mission and for the Extension service to be organized to put more boots on the ground,” he said.
Refilling vacant positions within Extension, including hiring more agents and researchers has been a common request from producers, Farm Bureau officials have said, and critical to meeting the increasing regulatory demands from the state.
But that’s tied to funding, which was briefly highlighted during a recent Maryland Agricultural Commission meeting.
Wei spent several minutes explaining to commission members that funding for the college is tied to enrollment, a concern for some members who said they’d like to see the college grow, such as Andrew McLean, one of the commission’s poultry industry representatives.
“The enrollment numbers ... do not sound that high,” he said last week when asked about his comments during the meeting. “The whole premise behind the whole beginning of the university was that it was a land grant university to provide agricultural education to the people of Maryland. ... It appears to me that agriculture has become an ever-decreasing part of the University of Maryland.”
The college has made significant enrollment gains over the last decade, however. The college enrolled 706 undergraduate and 297 graduate students in the fall of 2005, according to university data. In the fall of 2014, it enrolled 1,131 undergraduate and 376 graduate students.
Those gains mirror a recent and relative surge in enrollment at agricultural colleges across the nation.
McLean said he wonders if the college suffers from being in a region with ample agricultural educational opportunity at institutions such as Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. Regardless, if one is going to be tops, he’d like it to be the University of Maryland.
“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “One side of me says, ‘Gee whiz, why do we need so many large agricultural colleges in the area?’”
A big priority for him, however: returning the college’s focus to the business of agriculture.
“I think we do one kind of science at Maryland — political science,” he said. “Most of the research has not been about increasing crop yields. It’s been about decreasing nutrients.”
Top ag officials praise Wei, however, who leaves his post at the end of June. “Education is going to play an important role in all aspects of agriculture as we move forward,” state agriculture secretary Joe Bartenfelder said. “[Wei and I] had a great relationship.”
Beyrouty and Wei could not be reached for comment.