50 Years of Public Policy Education. The first National Public Policy Education Conference was held in

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1 50 Years of Public Policy Education Introduction The first National Public Policy Education Conference was held in September, thus this is the 50 th conference. I was involved with this conference for 30 of those 50 years... first as Associate Managing Director and then as Managing Director of Farm Foundation. I have a question for you? This is a question that only you will be able to answer. Will there be a 60 th conference? As a means of dealing with this question, I will briefly review the history of the conference and the National Public Policy Education Committee, discuss some of the enduring results of the conferences, and offer my views for the future of the conference. The Founding The National Public Policy Education Conference came about from a need which was identified in 1949, by Farm Foundation managing director Frank Peck, to explore ways and means of increasing the knowledge and 1

2 stimulating interest of rural groups in public policy subjects important to rural life and public well-being. In that year, Peck convened a Chicago meeting of extension specialists in agricultural economics; heads of agricultural economics departments; administrators of Agricultural Extension Services and Colleges of Agriculture; Farm Foundation staff; as well as consultants from the University of Chicago, Federal Extension Service, USDA and Bureau of Agriculture Economics, USDA. Out of this meeting, the National Public Policy Education Committee was founded. After holding several regional workshops in 1950, the Committee resolved That the committee sponsor a national agricultural policy conference early in the fall of 1951, preferably during the first two weeks in September, this conference to be designed primarily for those actively working in the fields of public policy. With the passing of this motion, the National Public Policy Education Conference was born. The first Conference was held at Allerton Park, Monticello, Illinois, a state park, on September 12-13, A general format for the conferences was established early: a three and one-half to four day conference with sufficient discussion time to explore issues with speakers; and including 2

3 one-half day for presentation of methodology. The guiding educational philosophy of the conference was also defined early. At the January 25, 1952, meeting of the National Committee it was "agreed that its responsibility logically is presentation of alternatives and their economic implications to enable people to make a decision regarding what policy they would like to have." That proposition has been the guiding principle of the conference and of the individual participants in their state programs. Since the National Public Policy Education Conference was designed primarily for those actively working in the field of public policy education, conference notices were initially sent to the land grant extension directors. To facilitate and encourage development of capacity for public policy education in all states, Farm Foundation provided transportation support for one individual from each land grant, selected by the extension directors, to attend the conference. As the conference s value was recognized, attendance increased as additional persons from many states attended, at state expense. Additionally, federal extension service, other USDA agencies, non-profit organizations and non-land grant universities have also 3

4 sent participants at various times. In 1998, Farm Foundation discontinued blanket transportation support for one member from each land grant to attend the conference. Since that time, Farm Foundation has provided grants for travel assistance on an application basis. In the last 50 years, the National Public Policy Education Conference has grown more inclusive to include the important public policy education work done in the 1890 institutions and in family and consumer sciences, as well as rural community issues. Results [economist and balloon story] How do you sum up 50 years of National Public Policy Education Conferences? I believe that the results speak for themselves. I see four main results: (1) a useful and visionary conference program, (2) the development of the policy options and consequences methodology, (3) the establishment of agricultural policy training courses and (4) the conference and committee publications. The first result is content. In the first 50 years, the topics explored at 4

5 this conference have mirrored the national issues of the time, anticipated new concerns, and explored education methods to achieve increased understanding of policy issues. Agricultural policy issues have been consistent session themes throughout the history of the conference, especially in years leading up to new federal agricultural policy legislation, such as the 1988 session, Priority Issues for a New Farm Bill and this year s session, How FAIR After legislation was enacted, sessions over the years have covered the implementation of the provisions of specific farm bills. Also, the consequences of past policies have been evaluated in the discussion of new policy options. In the earlier years of the conference, policies of specific commodities have been addressed, such as the 1953 session on Wheat Price Policy in the United States. Starting in the 1970s, food policy was integrated into farm policy as evidenced in the 1976 session, Food and Agricultural Policy. International trade policy and issues have been consistent themes throughout the history of the conference. In fact, the importance of trade is evident in the International Affairs session in the original

6 conference. Trade was anticipated as an issue in the 1960s, years before U.S. agriculture became dependent on world markets. Agricultural trade issues remained a consistent session theme at the conference throughout the 1980s-90s. Resource and environmental issues began to receive prominence in the 1970s and have continued ever since. The Conference addressed The Environment and Quality of Life in a 1970 session and Energy Policy in 1974 and 1977 sessions. In the 1980s-90s, sessions such as 1988's Emerging Resource Issues and 1997's Administering Environmental Law: Impacts on Private Landowners and Public Uses have focused on the evolution of environmental policy from national concern to a local impact. The conferences also have a history of examining the implications for agriculture and rural areas of the political process and overall economic policy issues. The 1951 Inflation session and the 1953 How the Political Process Works session illustrate that these topics were of interest from the start. This interest has continued with examples such as the 1985 session on Tax Policy Revision and the 1996 session on Changing Federalism. 6

7 Structural issues have been both anticipated and addressed since the 1970s. Sessions such as 1971's Struggle for Control of the Food System ; 1972's Who Will Control Agriculture? ; 1978's Policy Options for Small Farms ; 1980's Dispersed vs. Concentrated Agriculture ; 1990's Structural Changes in Food Industries and Public Policy Issues ; and 1997's Industrialization of Agriculture illustrate the continuing importance of structural issues. These sessions also illustrate the changing nature of structure and industrialization issues as a food system concern. The National Public Policy Education Committee has strived to select speakers to present divergent points of view of topics at the conference. Additionally, a hallmark of the conference has been allowing time for extensive discussion and interaction between the speakers and the conference attendees. One of the significant catalytic roles of the annual conference was the development of methodology for public policy education. [Past Your Eyes Milk story] 7

8 Throughout the 1940s and 1950s leaders and citizens in farming and rural areas expressed a desire for more education about policy options and consequences. Owing to the delicate political nature of these discussions, the extension educators from the land grant universities, USDA and their administrators were faced with developing methods for public policy education. The conferences played a catalytic role in developing and teaching a new methodology. For instance, at the1956 Conference, a group discussion on program methods was led by John Dunbar of Purdue University. The summary of the discussion stated: Previous discussions at this conference indicate that much more work needs to be done in: (1) defining particular public problems and their causes, (2) outlining all the possible alternative solutions to the problem, and (3) analyzing the specific economic consequences of each alternative. The summary also indicated that political, social and economic consequences are the basis for public policy decisions. The problem definition, policy options and consequences methodology, was closely identified with J. Carroll Bottum and J. B. Kohlmeyer (both of Purdue University and long associated with the National Public Policy Education Conference). It became the standard for public 8

9 policy education in agriculture, rural development, and family life as well as environmental policy as delivered by extension educators. The public policy education methodology has continued to be developed, building on earlier work. Public policy education in extension family and consumer sciences (formerly extension home economics) began to receive attention in the 1970s and 80s. Recent efforts sponsored by the committee have increased the size of the tool box of public affairs educators. The new tools enable educators to move toward dispute resolution at various levels, e.g. local and state levels, rather than only doing issue definition, alternative solutions, and consequences education. They enhance the way extension professionals help society deal with controversial issues and public choices at various levels Another early outcome of this conference was agricultural policy training courses for county-level educators. The national committee for several years gave attention to the problem/opportunity of involvement of county-level extension workers in public policy education and their training. The minutes of the September 3, 9

10 1952, National Committee stated: Some consideration should be given to methods of working more specifically on the county level. How can county workers be involved in a conference? What type of program can be developed for these people separate from national meetings? In 1953, in response to this need, Farm Foundation established threeweek courses in agricultural policy for county extension educators at several summer and winter training schools at a number of universities: Colorado State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Arkansas, Cornell University, University of Arizona, North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota. The foundation also provided scholarships for county extension educators to attend the courses. A total of 7l agents participated in the courses in the first year. Initially, the foundation paid two-thirds of the cost, not exceeding $100 to any one individual. The amount of the grant increased over the years. In 1955, 91 scholarships were used by agents from 41 states. The number of agents participating ranged from 70 to 110 during the 1960s. Many of the courses were taught by National Committee members. 10

11 The committee also coordinated course content. Starting in the 1980s, scholarships were also provided for extension management courses as well as policy courses. The extension summer and winter schools were discontinued by the university in the mid-1990s. The courses had significant impact on public policy education in many counties and states. For most of its history, this conference produced a Proceedings under the title, Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies. Copies were sent to each state extension director for distribution to every county office and public policy education specialists. Copies were also distributed to members of Foundation supported research committee members starting in the early 1970s. The foundation board members also received copies as did members of Farm Foundation s Bennett Agricultural Round Table upon its establishment in the 1980s. The publication was widely regarded as a resource for extension programming. The increasing use of non-academic program speakers and the resulting difficulty in obtaining publishable manuscripts, and the emergence and ease of online publishing through Farm Foundation s 11

12 Internet homepage ( led to the decision to discontinue publication of Increasing Understanding in A highlights publication of the conference was begun as Emerging Issues in Public Policy in Emerging Issues is intended to capture the essence of the conference by offering less material than a full proceedings, but more material than the executive summaries. It compliments conference papers and presentation materials posted on Farm Foundation s Internet homepage. Co-sponsored Publications. National Public Policy Education Committee publications, with the exception of Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies, were frequently co-sponsored with other policy education groups. The Center for Agricultural and Economic Adjustment at Iowa State University and the Agricultural Policy Institute at North Carolina State College were co-sponsors for most of the publications in the 1960s. USDA, federal and state extension services also co-sponsored many of the publications. The publications were widely distributed within and across states. Many of the publications were camera ready, allowing 12

13 states to use their own logos. These publications played a significant role in the policy education work in the United States. The subject of the leaflets and bulletins dealt with emerging issues of importance to farmers, agribusiness and rural people. While not advocating a policy solution, the knowledge gained had a significant impact on policy actions by individuals and legislators. In recent years, publications have included a series of commodityspecific policy options and consequences leaflets for the 1990, 1996 and currently the 2002 Farm Bill. Additionally, recent publications have addressed issues at the rural-urban fringe and state animal confinement policies. Reflections. What are some of the disagreements in the committee the I observed in my 30 years with the NPPEC? 1. Liberal vs. Conservative occurred at many levels basic agricultural policy; implementation of policy; impact of economic policy in agriculture. 2. Advocating policy solutions vs. education on issues alternatives 13

14 and consequences 3. What are the important policy issues? Agriculture vs. Rural Development; Resource Issues vs. Agriculture Issues; Rural vs. Urban; Consumer vs. Agricultural Producers; Family vs. Agricultural Producers, Resources and Rural Development. In spite of the disagreements, a conference was planned and held each year. In some ways, the disagreements added to the usefulness of the conference. The Farm Foundation from the start viewed the NPPEC as a means, not as an end. Means to what?... Better informed citizens and policy makers through better public issues education. Let me quote from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Charles Jaris, dated September 28, 1820: I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their 14

15 discretion by education. How can NPPEC be a better means to inform the discretion of citizens? Some thoughts: 1. Public Issues Education is informal education. Kent Hunt s observation on information education suck and blow. Implications-- -Don t Blow -Pay attention to suck. -Create interest in issues, i.e. create suck. 2. Committee members and participants should recognize the diversity of extension students and policy educators and seek to learn from the diversity, i.e., build on diversity. 3. Approach NPPEC decision making in issuesalternatives-consequences framework, rather than seeking to control with whom you do not agree. 15

16 4. Increase production and use of National and Regional Policy Issues publications. 5. Give attention to the support and direction of Land Grant University and extension as a public policy issue. If public support for Land Grant and Extension fades, there is no way for NPPEC to be a means to inform discretion of citizens. 6. Accept reality that there may be no 60 th meeting. 7. List of policy educators I would have nominated for the Hildreth Award if it had existed before they retired. -F.F. Hill -J.C. Bottum -T.R. Timm -J.B. Wycff -Wallace Barr -C.E. Bishop -B.F. Stanton New York Indiana Texas Oregon Ohio North Carolina New York 16

17 -William Wood -Mervin Smith -Gene McMurtey -Karen Behm -J.B. Kohlmeyer California Ohio Virginia Louisiana Indiana So, will there be a 60 th Conference? The NPPEC has ably served the needs of land grant and state extension policy educators, since 1950, as a means of improving citizens and leaders knowledge of policy issues, alternatives, and consequences. How well it will serve in the future depends on all of you in this room. Policy reality is changing and you must meet the new opportunities for policy education. 17

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