The CEO survey focused, in part, on education, and the message from CEOs and executives seems to be mixed. Undergraduate and graduate education, both public and private, is perceived to be very strong. On the other hand, public elementary and secondary education is perceived to be weak. When asked to rate eight different educational programs that train people to work in those specific industries, "agriculture" ranked the highest indicating a positive perception of Indiana's higher education institutions.
There is no doubt agriculture and its related industries are an important part of the state's economy. According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service office at Purdue University, Indiana is home to 58,800 farms covering approximately 15 million acres of farmland. In 2007, cash receipts to Indiana farmers for all crops sold were $5.2 billion and $2.6 billion for livestock. Indiana's forest and hardwood industry also contributes a very significant $17 billion each year to the State's economy.
Agribusiness today is no longer defined though as just crop and livestock production. Today it encompasses everything from specialty crop and hardwood production to input manufacturing, food processing and retail services, and distribution/logistics. The industry is also rapidly adopting breakthrough innovations in the form of biotechnology, information and satellite technology and alternative energy production, requiring even more attention to education at all levels simply to keep up with these advancements. And, the production of agriculture takes place in today's global marketplace, forcing all of us to understand how Indiana and US agriculture fit and compete in that system.
Indiana's strong colleges and universities each have a critical role in educating the next generation of agribusiness leaders to ensure our industry remains the most competitive and productive in the world.