Cole Gustafson, Associate Dean, Research, Agricultural Experiment Station North Dakota State University
Many observers of our society are critical that we are becoming increasingly myopic and "living for the moment." They allege that we indulge in the present and fail to plan for the future. In our haste, we scurry from task to task with little thought devoted to coordination of activities that may reduce overall transaction costs or increase operational efficiencies.
It is refreshing then, in this context, to have NDSU President Joe Chapman articulate his long-term goals for the University. In a series of 12 county meetings across the state this fall, he discussed his views with local residents. In summary, he challenges the institution to expand our graduate program and double the size of our research effort.
President Chapman believes that higher education is key to the economic development of North Dakota's future. At the moment, North Dakota ranks near the top in 2-year graduation rates, is above average in 4-year graduation rates, but near the bottom in rates for graduate degrees. He contests that our best students are leaving the state to pursue graduate degrees and not returning as students typically end up residing near the location of their terminal degree. NDSU needs to develop graduate programs to attract these top students...and keep them here to prepare North Dakota for the diverse and challenging digital economy of the future.
To attract these students, we need a critical mass of research programs. NDSU is off to a great start with construction of a new "tech park" on the northwest corner of the campus. The current anchor of the facility is Phoenix Intl., a subsidiary of John Deere. Rather than move the operation to John Deere in Illinois, Phoenix, in partnership with NDSU, is retaining 300 jobs in North Dakota and plans are being made to transfer an additional 300 jobs in the future. President Chapman goes on to explain that these are only informational jobs-NDSU is not intending to develop manufacturing facilities. He hopes that manufacturing opportunities will be spun off across every corner of the state.
As leader of NDSU's agricultural research programs, I am proud to be a part of this effort. In fact, we have a number of initiatives already underway that align with these objectives, especially in beef and range research.
In the last legislative session, the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE) identified the key role that graduate students play in our research and developed a "Range Initiative" that added five more graduate students to the range programs at Streeter, Hettinger, and Dickinson. If you had the opportunity to attend their Station Field Days this summer, you got a chance to meet these wonderful students and hear them detail their projects and explain the results they have received. Moreover, in the past 18 months, NDSU faculty and administrators with beef interests have been meeting to develop a long-term plan for our beef and range research programs, in advance of the next legislative session. The result of our efforts is BeefLine. It is so named to integrate our research programs from conception of a calf through eventual product sales to a consumer. The three main areas of BeefLine include Land Resource Management, Production Cost Management, and Marketing.
Overall, BeefLine is a 10-year, $2 million plan for North Dakota beef research. We certainly don't expect to receive funding to initiate all programs of BeefLine at once. It will be prioritized by SBARE and implemented as funding becomes available. Regardless, ranchers and agribusinesses will know the long-term direction our research programs are headed in and the means by which our various research studies are tied together.
In order for BeefLine to be fully implemented, our research efforts in beef will have to become more coordinated and focused. Discussions are already underway in accomplishing this effort. It may also require changes in legislative language to permit more flexibility in managing the flow of livestock within our research system. Initial discussions with key legislators have been very positive.
BeefLine has been critically reviewed by SBARE and was chosen as their top new initiative for the 2001-03 legislature. Other North Dakota commodity groups have now approached NDSU with interest in developing long-term research strategies for their products. There is no question that the livestock industry is undergoing tremendous change at the moment. We are implementing BeefLine to ensure North Dakota ranchers remain in front of these eventual changes!