Ag News

Public Policy Breakout Sessions: Education outlook

The deans of the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) and UGA College of Veterinary Medicine discussed issues their respective colleges are addressing and outlined the schools’ goals while speaking at the Georgia Farm Bureau convention.

CAES Dean Dr. Sam Pardue said the college has the opportunity to address the high mortality rate many rural Georgia counties have.

“This is important because as the population of rural America shrinks, so does its political clout,” Pardue said. “Rural America represents 14 percent of the U.S. population but 72 percent of the land in the U.S.”

Pardue said research by the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government shows that 82 Georgia counties lost population between 2010 and 2013 while six Georgia counties account for two-thirds of the state’s population growth since 2010.

Pardue also outlined five emerging initiatives the CAES has. The first is raising private funds to build a new poultry science facility to house the college’s teaching, research and Extension programs for poultry. In an interview with GFB media, Pardue said the college is in the early stages of developing the fundraising plan and determining where the new facility will be built.

CAES researchers are taking the microbiome - all microorganisms in an environment – into account as they conduct their research, Pardue said.

“In Ag we are interested in learning how the microbiome influences the growth, metabolism and immune responses of plants and animals,” Pardue said. “Specifically, how do gut microflora influence the growth and development of food animals or how do the microbiota in the soil alter a plant’s resistance to drought or disease.”

The third initiative the CAES is looking to address is the data farmers generate about their farms using GPS and automated irrigation programs.

“There is as much data generated by agriculture as the medical field,” Pardue said. “We need to study how we can use the data agriculture is generating to make better decisions.”

The CAES is working to secure approval from the Georgia Board of Regents to add a hospitality/food industry management major to the college. Pardue said CAES staff is in the early stages of discussing development of a Center for Global Food and Agricultural policy.

Dr. Lisa Nolan, dean of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, said the college has taken several steps to graduate more veterinarians who will focus on treating food animals. These steps include the Food Animal Veterinary Incentive Program (FAVIP), which identifies students in the CAES who want to become food animal vets and guarantees them a spot in the UGA vet school provided they meet certain academic requirements.

Nolan said the Georgia Veterinary Loan Repayment Program, which covers up to $80,000 of a UGA College of Veterinary Medicine’s student loans in exchange for them agreeing to practice large animal medicine in defined rural areas for a certain period of time, is another way the college and the state of Georgia are trying to meet the demand for large animal vets across the state.

“I have heard repeatedly that parts of rural Georgia don’t have access to veterinary care,” Nolan said. “That bothers me a lot and I can tell you that we will continue to work on this. The loan repayment program will help, and we’re working to recruit students who want to become food animal vets.”

Last year the vet school had about 1,200 applicants apply for 114 slots in this year’s class, Nolan said. The four-year cost of attending the UGA CVM is $180,978, Nolan said, and the average student graduates with a debt of $108,000.