At a symposium June 18-19 in Sacramento, agriculture professionals and policymakers will get a first look at new research that shows the rate of growth of public funding for agricultural research and extension has declined and the rate of growth in agricultural productivity is also slowing.

A soon-to-be-released study by agricultural economists Julian Alston of UC Davis, Philip Pardey of the University of Minnesota and Jennifer James of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, shows that from 1949 to 2002, in inflation-adjusted terms, total U.S. public spending on agricultural research grew by 1.85 percent per year, but from 1991 to 2002, spending growth slowed to only 0.43 percent per year. Research and development spending in California's state agricultural experiment station also slowed dramatically in the 1990s.

These investment trends are mirrored in productivity trends. From 1949 to 2002, California agricultural productivity grew by 1.85 percent per year, but from 1991 to 2002, agricultural productivity grew by only 1.08 percent per year.

"This measured slowdown in productivity growth is economically very important," Alston said. "Applied to an industry with an economic value of about $34 billion per year, the difference between 1 percent and 2 percent growth in productivity compounding over time represents billions of dollars per year even after only a decade or two."

Cal Poly SLO's James will present results from the joint research and its implications at the Symposium on Agricultural Research and Extension, sponsored by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the California Commodity Committee. Symposium organizers hope to raise awareness of the importance of agricultural research and extension in California. Presentations will prepare participants to assist in developing strategies for promoting and funding commodity research and extension work.

"The historical commitment of the United States to agricultural research and development has helped farmers provide Americans with a dependable, wholesome and reasonably priced food supply for many decades," Alston said. "A renewed commitment of public support for agricultural R&D could restore farm productivity growth and avert a continuing decline in California's international competitiveness."

Particularly through its productivity effects, agricultural research offers practical long-term solutions to address resource scarcity concerns, to provide relief from high and rising food prices, and to ameliorate the consequences of climate change and other adverse environmental factors, he said.

The issues are long term. "Successful agricultural research often takes years to affect productivity, but then the positive effect on productivity can persist for decades," Alston said. "Conversely, it may take 10 to 20 years before the negative effects of scaling back research spending become apparent."

The conference agenda includes the following presentations:

June 18

The Land Grant, Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Mandates — Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for research, education and economics

Agricultural productivity patterns and the payoffs to public from agricultural R&D — Jennifer James, associate professor of agribusiness, Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo

The legacy of the past century's investment (scientific development, agricultural advancements, global leadership, others). Case studies and review of the contribution these have made to society and our economy — Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center

Benefits to society at large — Timothy Paine, UC Riverside

Trends in public investment – where does funding come from, where does it go; start-up costs; how has it changed over time – trends in FTEs; different kinds of extra-mural grants — Rick Standiford, associate vice president of UC ANR; Donald Cooksey, interim dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UC Riverside

June 19

Commodity research and the experiment station mission — Neal Van Alfen, dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

Financial considerations that constrain research – overhead and other issues — Charles Louis, vice chancellor, UC Riverside

Importance of state, federal and voluntary commodity programs — George Gomes, undersecretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture

Council on Agricultural Research Extension and Teaching — Karen Ross, California Association of Winegrape Growers

What can be learned from other states or countries in terms of relationships and initiatives? — Panel

Cotton research and extension models in Australia — Daniel Munk, cotton production systems farm advisor, UC Cooperative Extension Fresno County

Citrus research and extension in Florida, Arizona and California – a comparative analysis — Ted Batkin, executive director of Citrus Research Board

The combined viticulture and enology research grants program and the National Grape and Wine Initiative — Deborah Golino, Cooperative Extension specialist, UC Davis

The role of the CSU colleges of agriculture in commodity research in California — David Wehner, dean of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo

Response and opportunities for future collaborations. What are the next steps? What would be the components of an action plan? — Dan Dooley, vice president, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

The symposium will be held at Marriott Courtyard Sacramento Cal Expo, 1782 Tribute Road in Sacramento.

Registration fee is $50, after June 3 it will be $75. To register go to http://forestry.berkeley.edu/ccc/. For more information or to register by mail contact Sherry Cooper at (530) 224-4902 or slcooper@nature.berkeley.edu.

For lodging information, see http://forestry.berkeley.edu/ccc/lodging.php.

A proceedings documenting the presentations will be created after the symposium.