Colleagues and Friends,
Walking in the piney woods of East Texas. Seeing the aquaculture production along the Gulf Coast. Speaking with cotton and cattle producers in the South Plains and Panhandle. Visiting vegetable growers in the Rio Grande Valley. Touring state-of-the-art urban agriculture and hydroponics programs in Uvalde and Dallas. Witnessing first-hand the life-changing programs created by 4-H, Research and Extension in Family and Community Health—programs like Healthy South Texas that are so highly valued statewide. In the nearly two years since arriving at Texas A&M as Vice Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, I have experienced the very best of Texas – a state leading the way in life-changing research.
Agriculture’s breadth, depth and impacts on healthy communities are unrivaled. And Texas A&M AgriLife reaches every Texan, from urban to rural, supporting producer needs and consumer health. In doing so, we meet our land grant mission as envisioned with the passing of the Morrill Act nearly 158 years ago. We advance society by meeting new expectations of food and agriculture – mission-driven work we love.
However, it’s not all roses. We are living at a unique and critical time when the future of agriculture has yet to be defined. This nation and, indeed, the world faces urgent and vital issues that only land grant universities like Texas A&M AgriLife are equipped to address. Our bold task is to develop the science needed to create future food systems that:
Achieving these expectations of the food system will require all of AgriLife’s expertise in research, extension, education and service. We must ensure that agriculture is the solution to human health, environmental health and economic health.
Last fall, an international consortium of epidemiologists, statistical methodologists and nutritionists, among them A&M faculty, authored a series of manuscripts that were peer-reviewed and then published in the leading medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. These studies brought a rigorous approach to assessing the relationship between red and processed meat consumption and human health. In response, advocates and faculty from other universities attacked the authors’ reputations, distorted their research and tried to block the studies’ publication. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently covered this in detail. We are looking forward to moving this discussion to one about how science, agriculture and nutrition can better serve public health.
At Texas A&M, our mandate as a land grant institution is clear: We meet the needs of all Texans across the entire agriculture value chain. Our research and extension efforts support all agricultural production, including vegetable, meat, grain, nut and berry. We also represent all consumers through programs that encourage healthy behaviors and youth development. Our research and extension professionals do not depend on extramural funds to cover their base salary. Our portfolio, which includes a wide and diverse mix of producers, and our research and extension work supporting family and community health bring producers and consumers together for mutual benefit – that is our bias.
Science is a discovery process, and we are not afraid of where rigorous science will take us. In all of my interactions, you have emphasized that A&M needs to be the source of research-based, reliable information: what is true, what is unscientific advocacy and what is uncertain. We are delivering on that promise.
As we seek evidence-based solutions to meet the new expectations of agriculture, our work likely will draw resistance. But we know we are in the right state, with the right people, the right facilities, the right support and we will succeed – because we believe in rigorous science to help guide our decisions. We will be a model for the world, showing that agriculture is the SOLUTION to the most pressing health, environmental and economic challenges facing society today.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research