LIVERPOOL, NY — With its focus on youth, the future was clearly on the agenda at the New York State Agricultural Society’s 182nd annual meeting and forum Jan. 8-9 at the Holiday Inn near Syracuse.
The keynote speaker on Jan. 9, Dr. Robert Milligan of Dairy Strategies LLC, gave an address titled, “Millennials’ Perspectives on Their Future in Agriculture.” He also joined in a panel discussion with four “millennials,” or college-age people who feel their future is definitely tied to agriculture.
In addition, at this year’s event, the Ag Society sponsored 10 young people to attend the two-day session. Meanwhile, the society recognized a member of the baby boomer generation, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) on its 50th birthday.
On the first day of the conference, CALS faculty and students discussed, “The Future of Agriculture: Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders.” At a reception, CALS was recognized for its role in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program.
Peter Gregory, PhD, director of the Humphrey Fellowship Program at Cornell, spoke at the reception about the exchange of students, scholars and agricultural professionals between the U.S. and developing nations.
“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace,” Gregory said, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Gregory, a native of England, said the world has to be concerned about dwindling natural and food resources in contrast to a growing population. “Only three continents on earth can produce food,” he noted. Many other countries are ravaged by drought, deserts and the instability of war. The world’s population in 2013 was just over 7 billion and the UN projects global population to reach between 8.3 and 10.9 billion by 2050, he said.
Cornell, which is one of 18 U.S. universities participating in the Humphrey program, is making a mission of training current and future leaders to address these problems. It’s definitely a two-way street that benefits students and professionals from a wide variety of disciplines and nations, including teaching English as a second language; public policy; economic development; educational administration; environmental science; finance and banking; health and medicine; journalism and international law.
“It’s not us teaching the world,” Gregory added. “It’s us collaborating with the rest of the world. It’s a great opportunity for our students and faculty to engage in international research, education and outreach.”
The Humphrey program, part of the Fulbright international exchange, provides 10 months of non-degree academic study in the United States for leaders from other countries. Gregory introduced Hamidid Meziane, PhD, an agricultural engineer from Morocco, and Aamer Irshad, Minister of Planning Development and Reforms from Pakistan, who are spending the academic year at CALS.
Meziane and Irshad are not teaching at Cornell, but working with professors to develop coursework for students to analyze agricultural practices not just in Morocco and Pakistan, but throughout the world.
Meziane, who works for the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Fisheries in Oujda, Morocco, said he earned his PhD in Belgium, so he is familiar with the agricultural industry in Europe.
“There’s a big difference (in exports) between Europe and the U.S.,” he explained. “But I’m also lucky to have spent four or five months in Blacksburg, Virginia, learning a lot about U.S. farming. Basically, through my collaboration with Cornell and U.S. agricultural organizations, I’m helping to organize farmers back home.”
His region in Morocco is noted for its fruit and fish production, he said, so he hopes to develop networking and export opportunities for farmers from both countries.
Another aspect of the Humphrey program at CALS prepares college graduates for a master’s of professional studies in agriculture degree, also known as Master’s International, which includes two years of field experience in the Peace Corps.
Terry Tucker, associate director of the Office of International Programs for Cornell University, said a major goal of the Humphrey Fellowship is to “strengthen agricultural programs in universities around the world.”
This includes financial assistance, of course, but also hands-on labor. “We were responsible for helping to rebuild universities in the Phillipines and around the world after World War II, but were also working with universities in Africa and Indian, helping to rebuild their scientific capacity,” he said.
“A lot of our work is simply collaborative research, for example on sustainability, resilience of crops in the face of climate change and soil management. We believe that U.S. agriculture benefits when we work with international educators, while simultaneously, U.S. students get a global perspective.”