Federal cooperative extension programs were developed to help researchers in the agriculture industry and, in turn, individual farmers in the United States.
According to a new study, an estimated 137,000 farmers would have left the fields in the past 25 years if it weren’t for these programs.
In his paper, “State Cooperative Extension Spending and Farmer Exits,” Stephan Goetz of Penn State University examines the value of extension services in an era in which fewer farmers are needed to produce food in the U.S. than in previous generations.
“The underlying concern is, if we are losing farmers at too fast a pace we may not be able to grow our own food,” Goetz said.
This paper, co-authored by Meri Davlasheridze of Texas A&M-Galveston, was recently chosen to be published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. It not only looks at policy and agriculture, but also the impact on traditional farming communities in rural areas; where cuts in extension funding could lead to a big economic downturn.
“There is tremendous return to the community,” Goetz said. “The numbers are clear. These services are making an impact. (Extension services) are helping create and keep jobs and doing it for less money.”