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Eliminating agronomy program just doesn’t seem right

February 9, 2011
Marshall Independent

gronomy majors at Southwest Minnesota State University are upset at the proposal to eliminate the program there.

And they have every right to be.

For those with a more objective take on the program's potential ouster, the reaction might not be as much frustration as it would be confusion.

Agronomy, defined in the American Heritage College dictionary as "The application of soil and plant science to soil management and crop production; scientific agriculture," might not be where SMSU hangs its hat, but clearly it makes sense that a four-year university that calls southwest Minnesota home would offer such a program, even brag about it. The college, after all, was built in the middle of a corn field. And, surprisingly, SMSU?is the only four-year institution in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system that even has an agronomy program.

Sometimes it pays to be unique, and SMSU should take advantage by leaving the program alone for now and giving it more of a chance to thrive in what, in truth, is its natural environment. Perhaps if it was, more Minnesota high school students with an agricultural background or an interest in agribusiness would favor SMSU over a college across the border.

The ones who have have thrived - a group of students who are part of the Post-Secondary Agricultural Student Organization will head to the PAS National Conference in March after taking home top honors at the state conference. So, instead of eliminating the program, let's advertise it.

According to SMSU?President David Danahar's proposal to the SMSU Faculty Association that outlined possible program discontinuance or reductions in light of a potential $3.6 million deficit over the next biennium, one of the reasons agronomy was chosen for discontinuance is low demand. That could be fixed if more effort is put into selling it. If it needs more time to grow, give it more time to grow.

While we understand the need for SMSU to look for ways to save money, and realize cuts and retrenchments are inevitable given the current economic state virtually every Minnesota college and university is in, this is a program that needs to be spared. We're concerned about the future of SMSU and are worried that losing a program like Agronomy - a program that just makes sense to promote and build upon in this area - is a sign that SMSU could potentially lose touch with its regional soul. It can avoid that fate, not by making the agronomy program a victim of budget cuts, but by turning it into a success story.

Budget woes notwithstanding, SMSU has a lot going for it and should retain programs that fit.



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