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Unexpected Agricultural Inputs
Dr. Victor L. Martin
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You may have noticed farmers in their fields applying anhydrous ammonia and other fertilizers or herbicides getting ready to plant wheat. Economists speak of inputs as land, labor, capital, and management. Farmers and ranchers are all too aware of and concerned about the increasing cost of the inputs necessary to produce food, fiber, and fuel. They are even more aware of the consequences of not obtaining the proper inputs and input combinations in agricultural production. One of those isn’t often thought of when considering the resources necessary for production in agriculture but in many ways it matters most – management.  Without proper management or guidance; land, labor, and capital are fairly worthless. Fortunately in agriculture, a great deal of the help and advice for management needs comes at the right price.  It’s free.
Free information for producers comes from a variety of sources including the USDA; county, area, and state extension specialists; commodity groups; and various producer groups. Private industry also offers a wide array of information on everything from fertilizers and pesticides to crop variety selection and marketing. A program like the Agriculture Program at Barton Community College also benefits from management inputs from a source many may be unaware of – an advisory board.
All of the programs in the technical division of the college benefit from the input of an advisory board, including the agriculture program. This board is made up of volunteer members from the agriculture industry in the area, both crops and livestock.  Also included are area school agriculture instructors and administrators. These boards meet twice a year. The only compensation is a little free food during the meeting. However, while there is no direct compensation, there is certainly a major upside for industry – qualified employees.
At these meetings programs are reviewed; student numbers discussed, concerns are brought out for discussion; and most importantly faculty and staff at the college solicit input. The program needs to know what is working, what isn’t, and how the college can better meet the needs of students and industry. At these meetings specific questions are asked as to what the agriculture industry needs from us in terms of student education. This is where we find out if we are fulfilling our mission as program and how we can perform that mission more effectively. The current Crop Protection program was developed as a result of the board’s input as is the new program making its way up the ladder for approval. All this allows the college’s agriculture program to do the best job possible in meeting the needs of students and industry. An added benefit is the assistance these board members provide throughout the year as issues and difficulties arise. And for our students successfully completing a certificate or degree program, these board members are often a source of employment.