For several decades, every time legislators cut federal and state budgets, agricultural research and Extension programs bled a little, losing a program here, an employee there, or a needed piece of equipment or facility somewhere else. By the mid-1980s, agricultural colleges had to scrounge for funds to augment state and federal money that no longer fully supported demands for both basic and applied research. Industry helped, but research still needed a system to assure credibility, funds with no strings attached.
Most institutions continue to look. But a group of Northeast Texas farmers, concerned that unique conditions in their area would generate little research funding, decided to create an entity to determine research and educational needs and develop a means to help finance special projects.
In 1987, we founded Cereal Crops Research Incorporated (CCRI) and began working with scientists at nearby East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) and Texas AgriLife Extension. We formed a 501c3 non-profit corporation designed to foster cooperation between Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas AgriLife Extension, County Government, and more recently, Texas AgriLife Research, for the betterment of taxpayers and young people in Northeast Texas.
According to agribusiness leaders, there is no organization quite like CCRI anywhere in the United States. To date, CCRI has generated over a million dollars to support the collaborative effort. CCRI hopes to establish a model program that can be used to stabilize funding for universities and agencies across the United States. Ourarticles of incorporation state that CCRI has two primary objectives: 1) to provide financial support for locally relevant applied agricultural research, and 2) to demonstrate management techniques on a field scale that have been proven in small plot research trials. In 1996, we developed a vision statement that expanded our mission. In it we stated the following goals:
1. CCRI dreams of being able to support active research in all applicable areas of crop production in this region. This means having all of the necessary staff, helpers, and finances to address the pressing problems. CCRI’s goal is to be able to help every crop producer in the region receive an answer to hisor herquestions.
2. CCRI wants to be involved in the education of our young people. The Directors visualize: a) involvement in graduate and undergraduate research projects, b) providing the opportunity for valuable, applied, “hands on” experience, c) creating student employment opportunities.
3. CCRI is committed to helping develop young people who have a positive image and a functional knowledge of agricultural production. We believe these young people will have a better opportunity to become successful producers, find employment in the associated industries, and provide the agricultural leadership for tomorrow.
Four years ago, CCRI aggressively pursued an expanded partnership with Texas AgriLife Research, and helped facilitate relocation of AgriLife Research personnel to the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus. Texas AgriLife Research is now an integral part of the overall program.
CCRI, in collaboration with other agricultural leaders across the region, is aggressively pursuing opportunities to further expand the partnership. We visualize a research farm and facilities near the Commerce campus for enhanced scientific research and educational opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students. We are also encouraging the development of shared faculty positions to address both agricultural research and educational needs of the region, and are willing to help by suggesting areas of critical need.
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Why This Program Makes Sense
A clear message is being sent from legislators in both state and federal offices – produce relevant, cost effective programs that more effectively serve the taxpayers or face severe program cuts or program termination. We believe the future of agricultural research, teaching, and Extension programs will be based on a heavy reliance on public-private partnerships. All single source funding programs will be at risk as legislators ponder drastic cuts to balance budgets.
Our partnership can serve as a model for the public-private partnership concept. By combining public and private funds we can leverage monies to solve local problems and spur economic development in the region. No single agency has to foot the bill and we can get the maximum impact for the dollar.
Following is a summary of the contributions of each partner:
|Texas A&M University-Commerce||2.1 positions (including cost shared technician position), facilities, equipment|
|Texas AgriLife Extension||1.4 positions, equipment|
|Cereal Crops Research Inc.||200,000 in financial support (approximately $50,000 annually), cost shared technician position, equipment, product donations, leased farm for research activities and student research and educational opportunities, political support from state and federal legislators|
|Texas AgriLife Research||Scientist support, equipment|
|Agricultural Industry (corporate and commodity association support)||$50,000 grant support annually|
|Hunt County Commissioners Court||Cost shared technician position|