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Abstract

Rapid technological and economic change has been the defining characteristic of food production, processing, and consumption over the past several decades. Improvements in production techniques, business practices, and information assimilation have enhanced the role of public universities: the provision of knowledge and information by public universities has become increasingly necessary, urgent, and profitable. This trend is likely to continue into the future as rapid development of information technologies, globalization of markets, and natural sciences occur. The thesis of this paper is that the need for institutions of higher education to teach students of all ages how to think, synthesize competing ideas, and assimilate new information has become more critical and more urgent in the information age, or "New Economy." Analytical ability and new knowledge in the economics of agriculture are increasingly important not only for the traditional university clientele of young adult residential learners, but also for productive women and men throughout their careers and lives. The original structure of the Land Grant Universities (Research, Extension, and Teaching) is well suited to accomplish this enhanced mission of providing lifelong education and information to producers, consumers, and decision-makers in the food and fiber industry. However, teachers of agricultural economics must invest heavily in the acquisition of new skills and knowledge and institutional change to take full advantage of the huge opportunities and challenges of the New Economy. This paper considers how well our traditional institutions, programs, and teaching practices in Agricultural Economics meet the objectives of student learning in a new era.

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