(June 19, 1998)

 Medium Term Strategic Plan
1999 - 2003
State Agricultural Experiment Station System
Experiment Station Section
Board on Agriculture
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
Fall, 1998

Table of Contents
Summary 2
Vision Statement  3
Mission Statement  3
Background 3
The Purposes of Agricultural Research  4
Stakeholder Identified Needs 4
Assumptions  5
Guiding Principles  5
Environmental Assessments  6
External Assessment  6
Internal Assessment  8
Comparative Advantages  9
Strategic Targets  10
Implementation of this Plan 12
Expected Benefits of this Plan 13
Evaluation of the Success of this Plan  13
Other Action Steps  13  
Footnotes 13  

A Medium Term (1999-2003) Strategic Plan for the
State Agricultural Experiment Station System1




This strategic plan2 represents a comprehensive road map of national strategies for the agricultural3 research activities conducted by the State Agricultural Experiment Station (SAES) System, and in partnership with others. This document communicates the strategic targets and some related action items we will undertake for the benefit of the System's users (i.e., customers, consumers, stakeholders, agricultural leaders, and decision makers). We are looking for new ways to enhance the System's performance and to report on our research impacts. Our plan is a dynamic, working document. Periodic up dates will be issued as needed.

Through this plan the SAES System renews its commitments to the Land-Grant University's fundamental paradigm that integrates teaching, research and extension for maximum public benefit. This renewal will allow the System to provide more concerted efforts when responding to the publicly relevant issues, previously voiced in successive citizen engagement sessions.

The SAES System has comparative advantages that allow it to provide publically relevant knowledge and information. Paramount among these is our long-term collaborations within and among Land-Grant institutions, and our partnership with the federal government through the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). This strategic plan builds on these relationships, and extends the partnership strategy in new ways, to serve the public better.

The System also plans to more broadly define its mission to better address publicly relevant issues, and to provide better research support for the extension and teaching missions of our paradigm partners. Additionally, the SAES System will use the five goals4 jointly derived with our  partners as a framework for planning national research activities, and for reporting research results through mechanisms such as those required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

The SAES System views itself as an entity greater than the sum of its parts, as a result of extensive coordinated research project planning and collaborations within the SAES network. The SAES System is seeking even greater enhanced performance as a "System." This outcome will be realized primarily as:

To assure the quality of the System's research, its responsiveness, and its relevance to stakeholders, several significant changes are being implemented. The SAES System is: This plan offers the opportunity to pass to future generations: At the same time: The SAES System recognizes that the future holds many unknowns, and significant resource constraints may limit our achievements. Given the public's expectations for solving the important agricultural, environmental and social issues identified through our listening sessions, the System's agenda is clear. And, given past high rates of return for agricultural research expenditures, these proposed research investments are well justified.

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DRAFT 6/19/98
A Medium Term (1999-2003) Strategic Plan for the
State Agricultural Experiment Station System


Vision Statement
The SAES System will be viewed by its primary stakeholders, and by the general public, as the premier providers of scientific research-based agricultural, human, and natural resource knowledge that is relevant, useful, and timely for addressing current and future problems, and for creating opportunities to further enhance public well being.
Mission Statement
The SAES System, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, using a decentralized network of participants, provides the relevant and appropriate scientific knowledge and the research capacity needed for: an economically viable and environmentally sustainable food, forest, ornamental and fiber production system; a safe, dependable, nutritious, diverse, and affordable food supply; and the preservation and protection of natural resources; all leading to a satisfactory quality of life for all citizens and their communities.  The SAES System will work cooperatively with academic programs, the extension system, federal and state agencies, and industry to meet the broader goals of its clientele.  We will do this through the development of new knowledge in the biological, physical and social sciences.

Strategic planning within the State Agricultural Experiment Station5 (SAES) System has, for nearly two decades, been primarily focused on describing a national "strategic agenda" of ranked agricultural research priorities. This process has recently given way to a more integrated approach that has brought together the Land-Grant University functions (i.e., teaching, extension and research) to identify common issues leading to action. This "Issues to Action"6 process involved a series of regional listening sessions followed by a synthesis of issues leading to a plan of action. The entire activity was premised on determined efforts to streamline collaborations among the Land-Grant Universities, and across functions. This most recent cross functional planning effort has set the stage for a new approach to strategic planning for the SAES System.

The SAES System is interested in receiving comments, endorsements, recommendations, criticisms, and points-of-concern in response to this plan as the SAES Directors organize the System's programs and allocate their resources for the next five years.

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The Purposes of Agricultural Research
The Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 (a.k.a. the Farm Bill) lists the following management principles as important to the purposes of  agricultural research, extension, and education.

"(d) MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES- To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall ensure that federally supported and conducted agricultural research, extension, and education activities are accomplished in a manner that--

(1) integrates agricultural research, extension, and education functions to better link research to technology transfer and information dissemination activities;

(2) encourages regional and multistate programs to address relevant issues of common concern and to better leverage scarce resources; and

(3) achieves agricultural research, extension, and education objectives through multi-institutional and multifunctional approaches and by conducting research at facilities and institutions best equipped to achieve those objectives."

The SAES System has adopted these purposes as a foundation for this strategic plan.

In addition, the SAES System, in partnership with the USDA's Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area and its Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), and with substantial customer input, have identified five strategic goals7. The five goals are:

These five goals provide an accurate and well defined framework for the SAES System's strategic planning efforts, and thus the five Federal-State Partnership's goals have been adopted for this planning process as well.

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Stakeholder Identified Needs

In several recent national and regional listening sessions, and through continuing customer engagements, the SAES System has identified a number of customer-important needs and priorities. These have been assembled into a list of customer-identified issues, stated as the need to have:

The SAES System accepts the challenge to address these customer-identified needs, and it will continue to use existing resources, redirect resources, and seek additional resources to provide science-based solutions.

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This strategic plan rests on a set of fundamental external and internal assumptions. The external assumptions are: The internal assumptions are:  Table of Contents

Guiding Principles
The SAES System has a heritage of providing relevant agricultural research results for meeting customer needs, and solving real world problems. It is also proud of its responsiveness to agricultural production crises and human emergencies. These characteristics are the hallmarks of the LGUs, and can be traced to their institutional paradigm that integrates teaching, research, and extension. And, it is their public service philosophy that provides the characteristics that distinguish LGUs from other types of research institutions.

Analyses of rates of return on agricultural research investments typically exceed 30% to 50 % annually. Few, if any, areas of research pay dividends that approach those of agriculture. The unique coupling of basic and applied research activities at the SAESs is said to account for these very high rates of return.

Considerable experience has been derived from developing the world-renowned Land-Grant Universities, including the SAES System. This experience has led to a number of guiding principles for developing a national agricultural research strategic plan for the SAES System. These principles are:

Decision-makers today expect more responsiveness from public programs, and better measures of impacts and benefits from public research investments. This expectation requires more informed management decisions on future outlays by SAES Directors. Directors in turn, must give greater attention to planning and accountability, while preserving and working within these guiding principles.

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Environmental Assessments

External Factors:

Internal Factors:                             - New research opportunities may not be pursued;
                            - Necessary maintenance is deferred;
                            - Operating budgets are reduced; and
                            - Open positions are left vacant.
Due to these financial constraints, it is difficult for the System to engage in new initiatives or to begin significant investments in emerging technologies. However, significant redirection of effort have occurred during the past decade.
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Comparative Advantages

The SAES System has important comparative advantages that contribute to its strength and uniqueness. The SAES System is:

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Strategic Targets

A set of 8 Strategic Targets, with 32 associated Action Items, will be pursued by the SAES system over the next five years to address the Federal-State Partnership's five strategic goals. These Strategic Targets and Action Items are:

  • Strategic Target 1.  Place greater emphasis on identifying and serving the needs of stakeholders and clientele.
  • Action Item:   Expand consultation, participatory planning and stakeholder involvement in program implementation.
    Action Item:   Emphasize the development of science-based information, technologies, and knowledge through a diverse portfolio of priority research activities.
    Action Item:   Provide knowledge and services equitably for all citizens, including the historically underserved and small-scale farming enterprises, for a broad base of service and appreciation.
  • Strategic Target 2.  Improve the effectiveness of agricultural research management.
  • Action Item:  Share research management approaches and successful leadership experiences through professional development programs, seminars, workshops, and in other ways.
    Action Item:  Develop improved performance and accountability measures to better assure scientific quality and research relevance.

    Action Item:  Develop, maintain, and share methods for documenting the impacts of research.

    Action Item:  Maintain an inventory of SAES System's capacity (human, fiscal, and physical resources) to better plan and direct activities for solving relevant problems.

    Action Item:  Verify the quality of scientific research, utilizing peer review where appropriate, to ensure that research investments are effectively allocated.

  • Strategic Target 3.  Expand the research capability of the SAES's to respond to stakeholder needs.
  • Action Item: Involve faculty-colleagues from non-traditional disciplines in the conduct of SAES research.

    Action Item:  Maintain and expand a diversified portfolio of funding sources for research, including the development of non-traditional sources of funding.

  • Strategic Target 4.  Expand and reinvigorate our strategic partnerships.
  • Action Item:   Strengthen our partnership with CSREES.
    Action Item: Jointly plan and conduct research activities with traditional (e.g., ARS, ERS, FS) and new partners (e.g., private labs, research-based companies, commodity  groups, non-governmental organizations).

    Action Item: Develop stronger collaborative relationships with additional federal agencies (e.g., NASA, EPA).

    Action Item:  Develop and enhance appropriate collaborative arrangements with the private sector.

    Action Item:  Develop and enhance partnerships among states.

    Action Item:  Provide leadership for expanded international partnerships.

  • Strategic Target 6.  Be more accountable to stakeholders.
  • Action Item:   Improve the effectiveness of our communications with stakeholders, including legislators and the public.

    Action Item:   Directly contribute to the reporting requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).

    Action Item:   Support the SAES System's growing commitments to Image Enhancement, jointly with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP).

  • Strategic Target 8. Organize the national research portfolio into a set of discrete programs.
  • Action Item:   Give the SAES System's diversity of disciplines a voice in the creation of a consensus ordering the research portfolio's programs.

    Action Item:   Reorganize the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy's (ESCOP) Technical Committees for greater cost efficiency and effectiveness.

    Action Item:  Partner with the professional society activities (e.g., FAIR 2002, CROPS 99) for planning national program activities.

    Action Item:   Liaison with commodity groups to establish agreed programmatic priorities, for mutual support.

    Action Item:  Charge the identified program areas with responsibility for: monitoring and projecting needed capacity; planning research activities; and reporting accomplishments.

    Implementation of This Plan
    Implementation of this plan of this plan will be through: individual SAES activities; jointly sponsored regional research projects;  multi-institutional collaborations; and ESCOP-sanctioned activities. Much of this plan's implementation will be done in collaboration  with our traditional and new partners. Implementation  through ESCOP will be done as ESCOP-sanctioned committees and task forces, working in concert with federal agencies, other "COPs", and the professional societies. Cost efficiencies and project effectiveness criteria will be applied to all ESCOP-sanctioned activities, on a continuing basis. Advisory oversight for all activities will be provided by CARET, industry, and commodity group representatives.

    Organization of the national research portfolio into a set of national programs will be done under ESCOP's leadership with attention to maintaining a balance between desired representation and the costs of participation. Each program will be charged with responsibility for:

    This configuration will allow a linking of:

    Expected Benefits of This Plan
    The SAES System views itself as an entity greater than the sum of its parts. The SAES System is seeking even greater enhanced performance as a "System." This outcome will be realized primarily as:

    Evaluation of the Success of This Plan

    The aggregate outcomes, benefits and impacts of the SAES System in the next five years will be documented through the reporting processes of GPRA. Milestones and indicators for this purpose will be selected in partnership with CSREES. Annual GPRA reports will be made public through multiple channels. This information will be supplemented with professionally crafted ‘Image Enhancement' documents, suitable for communicating the SAES System's successes. These documents, along with customer satisfaction surveys and assessments of trends in various sources of funding for the SAES System, will be the additional measures used to evaluate the success of this strategic plan.

    Other Action Steps



    1. The membership of the SAES System includes the State Agricultural Experiment Stations affiliated with the 1862 Land-Grant Universities and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station at New Haven; and the agricultural research programs at the 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Tuskegee University.

    2. The process used for developing the consensus positions represented in this document started with a series of national and regional listening sessions supplemented by other information resources. From these sources the ESCOP Subcommittee on Strategic Planning, which has representation from SAESs, extension, teaching, and USDA/CSREES (i.e., the federal partner-agency), identified a set of issues which were coalesced into a draft strategic plan. Subsequent cycles of review and revision have contributed to a national consensus on these proposed strategies.

    3. Agriculture, as used herein, is defined broadly to include all aspects of food, fiber, ornamental, and forest production, processing and consumption. The term agriculture is also used herein to relate to broad public responsibilities for preserving natural resources and protecting the environment, and serving the needs of all of the customers of agriculture; as individuals, families, and communities.

    4. The five goals are: An agricultural system that is highly competitive in the global economy; A safe and secure food and fiber system; A healthy, well nourished population; An agricultural system which enhances natural resources and the environment; and Enhanced economic opportunity and quality of life for Americans.

    5. The membership of the SAES System includes the State Agricultural Experiment Stations affiliated with the 1862 Land-Grant Universities and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station at New Haven; and the agricultural research programs at the 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Tuskegee University.

    6. See Issues to Action: A Plan for Action on Agricultural and Natural Resources for the Land-Grant Universities. The Board on Agriculture, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1996.

    7. Actually, the REE plan calls for a sixth outcome that relates entirely to human capacity development within the REE mission area, and thus it is not directly relevant to this research planning exercise.

    8. For an analysis of these relationships see W. E. Huffman and R.E. Just, "Funding, Structure, and Management of Public Agricultural Research in the United States," Journal of Agricultural Economics, November 1994.
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