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MFB report critiques state’s UMD AGNR, Extension
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
(Sept. 8, 2015) A Maryland Farm Bureau report exploring what it sees as a deteriorated partnership between the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and its Extension service and the state’s farmers and agricultural industry was slated to be released on Sept. 8.
The report, developed by a 17-member committee of the MFB, was prepared in anticipation of the arrival on campus of Dr. Craig Beyrouty who will become dean of AGNR on Nov. 1.
Beyrouty reviewed the seven-page report and authorized its release to the public.
The committee, listed as the MFB-UMD AGNR Extension Word Group, with Harry Moreland III, a Caroline County farmer and a member of the MFB board of directors, as chairman, presented its recommendations for the college and Extension’s purpose and curriculum, in eight principal areas of concern.
Together they detail the alleged broad scope of the breakdown in the AFB-UMD relationship through the past decade.
Chuck Fry, MFB president, had these comments.
“The members of Maryland Farm Bureau look forward to working with Dr. Beyrouty in the future to ensure a strong partnership for agriculture in our state.
“We look to the College of AGNR as a resource for education, research and Extension — the mission of a land-grant institution.
“Maryland Farm Bureau believes that the College of AGNR should be a leading institution that provides student instruction, agriculture research and agricultural Extension to meet the needs of today’s agriculture industry in Maryland.”
The report, which can be read in full here, outlines the MFB concerns in a total of eight areas.
Here is a summary of key selections in each arear of concern:
The full report will be posted on the MFB website on Sept. 8.
The research area within the University must be reviewed and reorganized. ... Leading researchers are not coming to or staying at the University of Maryland) due to a lack of financial resources offered from the university system and state/federal budget. ...
Politics have also been too intrusive in research targets. Outcomes desired by elected officials have steered research funding and focus.
The admission requirements within AGNR must be more conducive to Maryland high school seniors. ... AGNR must actively to recruit students at high schools, particularly concentrating on students involved in FFA and 4-H programs
The Department of Agronomy is a vital area in every agricultural college and must be restored at AGNR. ... AGNR has shown a lack of appreciation for and emphasis on production agriculture.
Faculty and Staff
Vacant positions within the College must be filled, particularly those associated with production agriculture majors and applied research.
AGNR should develop better relationships with prospective employers in the agriculture industry. Students should be exposed to employment opportunities while at college and employers should have input in curriculum development so faculty can correctly train the students to meet the employer’s need.
We believe that Extension through UMD’s College of AGNR is absolutely critical to the agriculture community as a source of independent, third party, unbiased information.
Every county should have at least one agricultural Extension Agent whose primary role is to educate the farmers in his/her county.
The current organizational structure utilizing Area Extension Directors is unnecessary and the positions should be eliminated. ...
The morale among Extension staff is at an all-time low and must be remedied.
Role of Extension Agent
Currently, Extension Agents are overwhelmed with administrative duties, required to conduct group meetings primarily and are discouraged from working one-on-one with farmers.
A general re-allocation of Extension funding is necessary to provide for at least one county agent in each county and to provide the “boots on the ground” delivery of information to farmers.
In order to reflect the true meaning of “cooperative” extension as outlined in the Smith-Lever Act, UMD should add the word “cooperative” back into the name of the program.
This will emphasize the cooperative effort between USDA, University of Maryland and the county government.
Serving with with Moreland on the work group were:
• Bruce Bagley, double graduate of the UMD Agronomy Department (88) and (92); Buddy Bowling, alumni, farmer, state & federal Ag Departments, Charles County; Brooks Clayville, farmer and nutrient management planner, Snow Hill, MD; Frank Covey, alumni, retired dairy farmer, Caroline County;
• John Draper, farmer, MFB Vice President, Queen Anne’s County;
• Chuck Fry, farmer, MFB President, Frederick County;
• Kurt Fuchs, President DPI, Mid Atlantic Farm Credit, Caroline County;
• Barb Glenn, farmer, Howard County;
• Eddie Johnson, farmer, retired Extension Agent;
• Joe Layton, farmer, alumni, Dorchester County;
• Lonnie Luther, farmer, retired FDA researcher, President Montgomery County FB;
• Tom Mason, farmer, former Extension livestock specialist, Kent County;
• James McNaughton, Ph.D., DPI Board member, President AHPharma, Food Safety Products;
• Guy Moore, farmer, Larriland Farms, Howard County;
• Lewis Smith, retired Extension researcher, farmer, Talbot County; and
• John Swaine, farmer, Talbot County.