The U.S. Cooperative Extension system (USCES) faces some serious challenges. Its relevancy and necessity are under continuous scrutiny as the number of farmers and the political power of the agricultural vote diminishes. These challenges provide an excellent opportunity to explore alternative sources of funding for the USCES and methods of technology transfer to farmers. Our objectives were to review the process and results of commercialization (the transition to user-paid consultancy) and privatization (the transition from government to privately owned) of New Zealand's agricultural extension service. Full commercialization of the New Zealand extension service took nearly 9 yr (1986 to 1994) and 3 yr (1992 to 1995) of negotiating before it was sold to a private company. During the commercialization process, the market for paid advisors increased and many of them left the public extension service to become private agricultural consultants. Many farmers were initially unwilling to pay for consultancy services. On the other hand, implementation of advice and adoption of new technologies has been greater among farmers when advice and technology are purchased than when they are provided 'free.' Since the commercialization of publicly funded extension, farmer cooperatives and commodity boards have ben to provide 'free' or low cost services to transfer information to farmers. Educational models and goals, and client-advisor relationships have also changed as a result of user-pays. The commercialization and privatization of publicly funded agricultural extension is a relatively new process and its affect on the long-term sustainability of agriculture within a country are uncertain. Consequently, additional in-depth investigation into the process and its long-term consequences on agricultural productivity, profitability, and social well-being should be completed before initiating such a plan in the USA.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science