The deans of the agriculture colleges for the major land grant universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi all attended the 2011 Southern Peanut Growers Conference Friday to deliver the same message — funding for agricultural research is down at a time when it is needed more than ever before.

George Hopper with Mississippi State University, Scott Angle of University of Georgia, William Batchelor with Auburn University, and Joseph Joyce of the University of Florida each spoke about how the money for Extension, education and research is continuing to decline.

Despite that, they are optimistic about the future of the system because of requirements to feed a growing population.

“The land grant model is still viable, still important to producers, but the funding mechanism is under stress and we’re all looking for new ways to leverage resources,” said Joyce.

Batchelor noted that agriculture is going to have to double food production within the next 39 cropping seasons in order to feed the growing global middle class. “It’s a daunting challenge for a dean of a college of agriculture to develop programs to do that,” he said.

“Whether it’s at the federal or state level, all land grant universities’ budgets are under challenge, despite the fact we need to grow more food and train more students,” said Angle.

“We need your help,” said Hopper. “If you believe in the land grant universities, we need your help.”

He urged the peanut industry to help by letting their legislators know the importance of agricultural research, both on the state and federal level, and also by recruiting young people for the future of the industry.