The following essay, which first appeared on Alternet, is a lucid, detailed look at what has become of public-university agriculture research in an age of budget austerity.
I’ve startled a bug scientist. “Yeah, now I’m nervous,” said Mike Hoffmann, a Cornell University entomologist and crop specialist who spends his days with cucumber beetles and small wasps. But he’s also in charge of keeping the research funding flowing at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. What have I done to alarm him? I’ve drawn his attention to the newly released FY 2009 Presidential Budget.
Like more than a hundred public institutions of higher learning, Cornell is what’s known as a “land grant” college. Dotting the United States from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., such schools were established by a Civil War-era act of Congress to provide universities centered around “the agriculture and mechanic arts.” Congress handed each U.S. state a chunk of federal land to be sold for start-up monies, and for the last 150 years, it has funded groundbreaking research on all things agriculture... Read more