Extension′s role in disseminating information about climate change to agricultural stakeholders in the United States
The U.S. Cooperative Extension Service was created 100 years ago to serve as a boundary or interface organization between science generated at the nation′s land grant universities and rural communities. Production agriculture in the US is becoming increasingly complex and challenging in the face of a rapidly changing climate and the need to balance growing crop productivity with environmental protection. Simultaneously, extension budgets are diminishing and extension personnel are stretched thin with numerous, diverse stakeholders and decreasing budgets. Evidence from surveys of farmers suggests that they are more likely to go to private retailers and consultants for information than extension. This paper explores the role that extension can play in facilitating climate change adaptation in agriculture using data from a survey of agricultural advisors in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska and a survey of extension educators in the 12 state North Central Region. Evidence from these surveys shows that a majority of extension educators believe that climate change is happening and that they should help farmers prepare. It also shows that private agricultural advisors trust extension as a source of information about climate change. This suggests that extension needs to continue to foster its relationship with private information providers because working through them will be the best way to ultimately reach farmers with climate change information. However extension educators must be better informed and trained about climate change; university specialists and researchers can play a critical role in this training process.
KeywordsBoundary Organization North Central Region Natural Resource Conservation Service Extension Educator Climate Change Information
This research was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (grant # 2011-68002-30220), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA13OAR4310120), and the Kinley Trust at Purdue University. We thank the other members of the Useful to Usable (U2U) project team for their assistance in discussing the ideas included in this paper.
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