Sequester impacts: A major concern for the education and scientific community

The sequesters effect on education and scientific community in relationship to associated research and important humanitarian programming.

The sequester is an important concern for the education and scientific community. It affects research and other important humanitarian programming that moves the human condition forward.

For example: Scientists are predicting shortages of food, water and energy by the year 2050. In fact, according to Science Magazine, “more than one in seven people today still do not have access to sufficient protein and energy from their diet, and even more suffer from some form of micronutrient malnourishment.” All this comes at a time when food producers are experiencing greater competition for land, water and energy.

Climate change is an additional concern, with scientists wondering how mitigation and adaptation measures may affect the food system. With much to consider, one thing is clear: More food will need to be produced from the same amount of (or even less) land and/or fisheries. Overall, Science Magazine says that recent studies suggest that the world will need 70 to 100 percent more food by 2050.

In the March issue of the Michigan Milk Messenger, Gov. Rick Snyder‘s 2014 budget proposes more than a four percent funding boost to the state agriculture department, including three million for the Strategic Growth Initiative. This is geared towards bolstering the food and farm sector’s contributions to Michigan’s economy.

In a March 4 Michigan State University Extension update, it was said that in Michigan, 91.4 billion dollars comes from the agricultural industry. New figures released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that Michigan's overall agricultural exports in 2010 reached $1.75 billion. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development posted that, “Michigan is the seventh largest exporting state in the U.S. for fruit and preparations, with $144.6 million in exports, the ninth largest exporter for vegetables and preparations, with $158 million in exports and the sixth largest exporter of "other" agricultural products with $175.4 million in exports.”

During June 2012, research supported from the USDA Developing Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program, in partnership with Michigan State University researchers, conducted the first statewide farm succession survey in Michigan. The farms surveyed represented 28,264 Michigan farms. Findings from this study, The Michigan Farm Succession Study are thought provoking and lend a sense of urgency:

  • Of Michigan small-farm operators, 40 percent (the largest segment of Michigan Farms), are over the age of 65.
  • Within the next 10 years, approximately 35 percent of all Michigan Farmers anticipate retiring.
  • Less than half (38 percent) of those intending to retire will pass on their farms as one unit to one heir.
  • Approximately 472,000 acres of farmland are in current operation by owners planning to leave farming in the next 10 years.
  • The Michigan Farm Succession Study said that the 28 percent of farmers in the 75-years-old or over category, who have not identified a successor, largely indicated either “sale of” or “left idle” as intended plans for their farmland.

The children and youth of today will be the heirs of anticipated future shortages in food, water and energy. Sustainability efforts must include Michigan farmers scaling up production in order to meet the needs of an ever-increasing demand for fresh, local and healthy food. Michigan’s agricultural viability, at one time an intergenerational business transfer, also requires continued support to meet the demand – driven, good food economy.

Cultivating and preparing the next generation of farmers, through creative, inquiry-based science and research based programs like 4-H and FFA will be crucial to this process.

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