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Report gives impact of extension service, experiment stations

STARKVILLE — The South’s extension service and experiment station systems are still relevant nearly a century after they were founded.

This according to a new report released by an Ohio-based charitable trust.

Battelle Technology Partnership Practice and BioDimensions, an independent research and development organization, released results of a study of the economic impact Extension Service and Experiment Station systems have had on a 13-state Southern region.

The Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors and the Association of Southern Regional Extension Directors commissioned Battelle to analyze the relationships between work conducted by experts in land-grant university-based programs and the industries they support. Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station were included in the study.

The report, “Impact and Innovation: Agbioscience in the Southern United States,” examines agriculture, forestry and fisheries production, and the development, production and value-added use of plants and animals for food, health, fuel and industrial applications. Battelle coined the term “agbioscience” to refer to these activities.

In the southern United States, these industries generate $240 billion in regional economic activity, support more than 2.2 million jobs and generate $62 billion in labor income.

Value-added food and industrial products add another $1 trillion, and almost 4.6 million jobs to the region’s economy. Value-added industry labor income totals more than $200 billion for the region.

“The U.S. system of research and Extension provides science and technology development and transformational education that keep Southern region agriculture, agribusiness and associated business sectors at the forefront of innovation, productivity and competitiveness,” Battelle reported in its press release. “These advancements create and sustain jobs and contribute to a strong regional, national and global economy.”

The report credits the land-grant university system’s Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station system with the technological innovations and modern scientific research required to sustain the agbioscience sector’s positive economic growth.

“Mississippi State University is a leader in traditional agricultural economic activity and is developing exciting new technologies designed to increase crop yields, develop sustainable alternative biofuels and leverage the state’s agricultural assets to produce the food, feed, fiber and fuels that are in demand around the world,” said George Hopper, MAFES director.

Mississippi’s agricultural commodities generated more than $7.5 billion in 2012. Mississippi is in the top 20 states in the production of 15 agricultural commodities. The agriculture, forestry and natural resources sector employs 29 percent of the state’s workers and generates 21 percent of the state’s total revenue. The study noted that in 2011, Mississippi had 42,400 farms with more than 11 million acres in production.

“Our job is to translate and communicate research-based information to the general public that they can apply to their businesses, farms and lives,” said Gary Jackson, director of MSU’s Extension Service. “We provide practical education that people can trust so they can solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.”

The Battelle study identifies continued research and Extension work as an important factor in the future success of the agbiosciences sector.

“Significant research and Extension work at land-grant universities is focused on maintaining and sustaining rural economies, community support systems, government capacity, leadership skills, strong families and 4-H youth development to help ensure the long-term viability of the economic and social systems that support agbioscience progress,” the report noted.

The Southern region land-grant universities’ Extension services and experiment stations are represented by the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors and the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, respectively. The two associations’membership consists of directors, associate directors and assistant directors (or their equivalents) of the State Cooperative Extension Services and Agricultural Experiment Stations of the Southern Region’s 13 states and two territories.


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