Land/grant colleges were established to serve the public via a tripartite system of teaching, research, and extension. Agricultural economists have played a key role in this system in meeting agriculture's needs and are expanding this role to better cover the areas of food, natural resources and the environment. The declining economic importance of agriculture and the growing interest in relegating agriculture to free market forces has resulted in declining formula funding for the land grant system, greater emphasis on competitive funding, demands for greater accountability, and demands for a return to greater focus on public service, problem solving, and stakeholder involvement in the definition of research, teaching, and outreach agenda. Simultaneously, the demand for the traditional "agricultural economics" graduate is declining. This paper reviews the current and long-term issues and trends facing agricultural economics departments, explores the futures of their teaching, research, and outreach programs, and highlights the challenges that will be faced as these departments explore new teaching, research, and service opportunities in the areas of food, natural resources, and the environment. The paper concludes by arguing that for forward thinking agricultural economics departments, these pending changes will represent opportunities for better scholarship, more balance, and more effective service.


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