Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes
University of Missouri

For over one hundred years, Land Grant Universities (LGUs) have pushed the frontiers of knowledge; have translated new knowledge into practice for the benefit of farmers, agribusiness and consumers; and have prepared the next generation of agricultural scientists and entrepreneurs. Historically, there have been strong arguments for public investment in such knowledge generation and transfer activities. The basic argument is that knowledge is by nature a “public good” and, therefore, the private sector would be unwilling to invest in fundamental research. The public sector should do so instead. In this way, new concepts, processes, techniques and materials could be developed and flow in the economy with positive social welfare effects.

There is substantial evidence that such investments have served the public well. The estimated average annual return on public investment for agricultural research and technology transfer in the US is over 30%, which is high by any standard of investment efficiency. Benefits for consumers have come in various forms including low-priced, high quality, and safe food. There is little argument about the size and relevance of consumer benefits from agricultural innovation. The benefits to US farmers, however, have been questioned in some cases. Read more . . .