Two resources that might interest those of you tracking this issue of
the privatization of extension.
World Bank Technical Paper #247
/Agricultural Extension, A Step Beyond the Next Step/,
Charles Ameur, 1994 ISSN 0253-7494
Favorite quote: "Going private should to some extent take the burden
away from the public sector, cut down on expenses, improve management
and staff professionalism, and make users' problems become main
priorities." [p 12]
And: "Since users are more likely to seek advice from more competent
sources, a natural-selection process is likely to result in which
only the best sources are retained."
World Bank Discussion Paper #236
/Public and Private Agricultural Extension: Beyond Traditional
Frontiers/, Dina Umali and Lisa Schwartz, 1994, ISBN 0-8213-2803-4
Note: Ameur is an "agriculturalist," Umali an ag policy consultant,
Schwartz an ag economist. Kinda like hearing communicators and
librarians hold forth on how suspension bridges should be designed.
These pubs acknowledge that commodification of ag information will
most strongly benefit large producers, but point out that small or
"subsistence" or "marginal" farmers need only buck up and figure out
how to do their own extension. The effects of being costed *out* of
certain realms of (particularly proprietary) information aren't
considered. It's clear that some "customers" aren't worth servicing.
Also, they overlook the synthesizing, knowledge-building function of
public institutions in favor of a flow of commodified, "highly
specialized information" to help enterprises stay in business.
Nothing wrong with the latter, but the day fragmented, atomized
information is divorced from knowledge-building we end up with...
Nah. I won't say it. Anyway, these are good indicators of what
sustainable ag--by its nature a knowledge-building, synthetic
endeavor--is going to face, info-systems-wise, in the next few
decades. All this focus on "information" makes me a little queasy.
There's a (very familiar) reductionism at work here that we haven't
begun to deconstruct, and it ignores the essential work of human
communication and what it takes to create and sustain diverse,
complex, and enduring memory and culture. The October conference
here in Madison should be very interesting.
Michele Gale-Sinex, outreach and education
Center for Integrated Ag Systems/Ag Technology and Family Farm Institute
UW-Madison--Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
The wildest pitch is the one that stays in the hand.