The state truly was created by the consent of the governed and, as Reagan once said, “There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as the laws of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”

But the truth is that philosophy can grow to a point that swings the pendulum too far.

That may be the case when talking about one of the most valuable resources within the scope of agriculture – the university extension network.

In recent years the economy has hammered public agencies. As a result, many extension services used by beef producers may be changed or possibly lost altogether.

These cuts come at a time when many taxpayers have expressed outright hostility to any public government program.


Good arguments can be made for those cuts in a poor economy. But we need to use some wisdom and balance, and stop demonizing agencies if they help ag.

Our country’s advanced food production system didn’t happen overnight. It took massive investment over the past two centuries, with the ideal that rural economies needed to be part of the move into the future.

The cooperative extension systems that evolved from the Morrill Land-Use Act and the Smith-Lever Act have fueled agricultural higher education nationwide. You’ll fail to find anything like it around the globe.

What’s so unique, however, is that this innovation hasn’t forced food and livestock production to become an urban element of society.

Quite the contrary, cooperative extension has protected and promoted the rural way of life. Extension agents have strong connections to rural producers.

From experimental research done with international partners to county 4-H functions, the public investment into ag extension has yielded results. And circles of beef production have reaped many of the benefits.

That’s not saying universities, cooperative extension and state and local governments should be immune to cutbacks.

All government bears a responsibility to rein in costs, especially when the taxpayer feels the burden. This should lead to innovation reinventing our public resource and building better ties to the taxpayer.

And that’s precisely what’s unfolding at land-grant colleges throughout the heartland, as you’ll read in this month’s Progressive Cattleman in column News/In the News, or click here to read the article.

Extension officials know that today’s ag producer still needs the latest research and information to succeed. But the way they share that information needs to efficiently improve.

Right now our country is yearning for an economic spark that leads to job creation and growth – and agriculture is that success story.

Much of that success is rooted in the people who work for – and with – public extension agencies.

When you hear politicians go after public agencies this year, take their accusations with a grain of salt. As far as the public investment into ag education and research is concerned, the money we’ve spent is nothing to be ashamed of.  end_mark



David Cooper