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Plan Set For MSU's Ag Division's Future
JACKSON -- Mississippi State University officials unveiled their plan in early June to direct the action of the university's agriculture and forestry division in the coming years.
Speaking at the Agriculture and Forestry Summit 2000 in Jackson, MSU President Malcolm Portera and Vice President Charles Lee spelled out the course of action. The goal is to improve Mississippi's future by increasing wealth generated by what the state produces from the land and from new industry that is likely to emerge from recent developments in the life sciences.
"We're here today with you to lay out the agenda for this Division of the university, to let the people of the state see it and touch it and know what they have shaped over the last few years," Portera said. "The orientation we have is toward linking the university to the economy of the state."
Portera said the Summit series began to raise the type and degree of appreciation for agriculture, to showcase how integral agriculture and forestry are to the economy of this state and to let Mississippians have a say in the direction MSU takes.
The Summit was hosted by MSU's Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. It brought together about 400 government officials, industry leaders, policy makers and university personnel for the half-day event.
The process began three years ago when MSU and its stakeholders identified key areas in the state that need improvement. Task forces were formed to study these areas and recommend a strategy to bring improvement. This third Summit framed a plan of action and revealed it to the people of the state.
Lee outlined five areas the university's ag division is focusing its energies on. He said the Division will serve as a major provider of educational opportunities, and as a statewide catalyst for economic development, conservation of natural resources and enhanced quality of life through research and extension.
The Division also will be a reservoir of expertise to aid in solving critical problems, a major contributor to citizenship through its teaching role and a network of components accountable to its constituencies.
Lee said concerns about Mississippi's future include the impact of the global economy; declining quality of life in rural communities; integration of the agriculture industry; concerns about the environment, food safety and quality, and rural health; and the costs of poor behavioral choices by the youth of the state.
"How our producers, processors, distributors, families and communities respond to these challenges will determine whether we claim a brighter future for the people of Mississippi," Lee said. "As a land-grant institution, we must be willing to change if we are going to be relevant to the changing needs of those we serve, and justify continued public and private support.
Specifically, Lee called for the ag division to exploit the life sciences revolution; develop ways to enhance product value; focus research and education on multidisciplinary systems approaches to crop, animal and forest production; identify and help develop alternative enterprises; increase the focus on the sustainability of the state's forests, land, water and air; and support youth, families and communities with research-based educational programs.
"We all need to be aware of the sense of urgency we face to address the economy of this state," Portera said. "I firmly believe there is no institution in this country that is more important to the state in which it is located than Mississippi State is to Mississippi."