Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Legislative Brunch
Carvel Research & Education Center, Georgetown
May 15, 2012

Before I start, I want to thank Dean Morgan for 10 years at the helm of the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Robin has been absolutely committed to the people and the issues so vital to Delaware’s traditions, strength, and prosperity. Robin, thank you for your leadership.

UD’s Land-Grant Mission
This year, I’ve been talking more than usual about the University’s history as a land-grant institution. And that’s because this year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the land-grant charter.

In July 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act, granting land to the states for the establishment of colleges that would teach agriculture and engineering—both essential to an agrarian but industrializing young nation. The Morrill Act opened access to higher education. It introduced working people to new practices and new technologies. It served them with practical research—bringing science out of the University and onto the farm. It connected citizens with the knowledge and resources that support community and economic development. And it remains the single most important piece of legislation in terms of strengthening early America’s democracy and prosperity. 

The term “land-grant” has evolved since 1862. Most things have. But the heart of the land-grant mission endures. Today’s land-grant universities provide a variety of educational opportunities, robust research, and Cooperative Extension and outreach programs that connect people with university expertise, innovation, and assets. It’s higher education for the public good. And that really is what guides the University’s goals and our daily work.

Agriculture and the Economy
In Delaware, agriculture remains central to the University’s land-grant mission. Agriculture is one of Delaware’s economic foundations, contributing an estimated $8 billion annually to the state’s economy. The value of agricultural production itself exceeds $1 billion each year.

Delaware ranks first among states in the value of agricultural products sold per farm and in the value of agricultural production per acre. Poultry production dominates Delaware’s ag industry with an annual aggregate output of $3.2 billion and a total of 13,400 jobs. The modern broiler industry began right here in Sussex County, and it’s remained America’s top broiler-producing county since 1944. Much of Delaware’s cropland is used to grow corn and soybeans, which support the poultry industry and, together, are valued at $130 million.

Of course, poultry isn’t the whole story. Kent and Sussex counties are among the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in the value of vegetables sold. And Delaware’s vegetable marketing receipts exceed
$59 million. Finally, the state ranks 3rd nationwide in the number of horses per county, with the equine industry spending about $280 million a year in Delaware.

Agriculture is such a rich industry in the First State. It’s the lifeblood and life’s work of so many Delawareans. It’s our heritage—our past. But it’s also our future.

The Changing Nature of Agriculture
Like any industry, agriculture in Delaware is affected by many different forces: changing land uses and values, shifting demographics, government regulation, globalization, environmental impacts, variable views of the industry held by the public at large and by policymakers, and especially today, economic risk. 

But I’d venture that the general population cares more and more about agriculture, and its critical role in all sorts of pressing issues. People want to know where their food comes from. They want a more transparent relationship with it. They want to understand how production and distribution affect human health. And they want to know that we take our global responsibility seriously: to provide food where resources are scarce.

They want to know about agriculture’s impact on the environment; how we preserve our agricultural identity and the natural resources essential to the sector’s sustainability. They link agriculture with energy production and renewable-energy solutions, and they want more information on the give-and-take between the two. They understand that agriculture is a huge factor in world politics, and that it’s a major driver of the global economy.

We are a community open to embracing progressive views on how we get our food and fiber. And those in the industry are willing to adopt new strategies. We know that science and technology hold great promise for developing sustainable, knowledge-based agricultural practices in Delaware, and they must be aggressively pursued.

Sustaining Agriculture in Delaware 
Delaware’s role in the future of regional and global agriculture could be very significant. Through our research and outreach programs, UD has been providing agriculture support for decades. And the state has contributed to these efforts through a number of line items in the state budget.

Over the years, these lines were expanded, and they’ve been critical to the ag partnerships that have developed among the University, the state, and the private sector. In FY 11, these Ag lines totaled $5.6 million. In FY 12, the lines were reduced to $4.8M, a 14 percent net reduction. If the University of Delaware is to continue to provide the applied research and extension support for agriculture that the state has come to depend on, it’s essential that this funding be restored and—in some cases—enhanced. 

Today, we’ve asked you here to listen to a few UD speakers who will describe in more detail the programs funded by Ag Lines, and how they’ve been affected by budget cuts. Our goal is to convince you that funding for the Ag Lines is money well spent in the First State. I know everyone here cares deeply about Delaware agriculture. I know you’re committed to the sector as an economic driver and to the people who power it. And so I thank you all for coming.

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