Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges

Looking Forward at the Opportunities Ahead

Edited by: Kevin Andrews
Quotes from: Southwest Farm Press
Text from: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


This month, 14 in ’14 has looked back on a hundred years of Cooperative Extension. In the third and final article of May, we will celebrate our centennial by looking forward to what lies ahead.

The challenges faced by our nation in 1862 when the Morill Act was signed into law, or in 1914 when the Smith-Lever act was passed look much different than the challenges we face in modern society. However, the land-grant university and Extension remain poised and positioned to address large and complex problems.

“With our 100th anniversary we see some grand challenges ahead,” Dr. Doug Steele, Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said. These grand challenges include: feeding the world, improving health, protecting the environment, enriching our youth and growing the economy.

“If anyone believes those challenges are not addressed by agriculture, they are not paying attention,” Steele said.


Growing populations, decreasing natural resources and increasing environmental challenges present us with opportunities to find the most efficient and healthful ways to provide food for all, both domestically and globally.

“We have to feed the world,” Steele said. “China and Russia will not do it. It will be the United States, as always.”

Programs like EFNEP help families make smart decisions about nutrition, food safety, shopping on a budget, and food preparation skills so that the food we produce can be enjoyed by all.


Agriculture and a healthy environment must go hand in hand.

“Protecting the environment is important to agriculture,” Steele said. “Farmers are the original stewards of the land. If farms are not sustainable, they don’t stay in business.”

We are moving into a new era where improved management of existing agricultural landscapes is critical to protection of our environment.


Programs in recreation and nutrition focus on optimizing health and preventing the most common and debilitating diseases currently facing Americans. Health promotion starts with healthy habits and our programs are proactive in improving learning and success in children.

Steele said improving health through exercise and nutrition are important aspects of Extension as programs for youth and adults are in place to provide education on healthy lifestyles.

Health and safety go hand in hand, so child passenger safety and disaster education programs also promote long, healthy lives.


“We have no greater investment opportunity than our youth. We are proud of the state’s 55,000    4-H members.” In addition to specific skills, 4-H teaches leadership, Steele added.

We prepare youth to be leaders in solving the world’s problems. Our personnel and programs equip our youth to meet the challenges of childhood, adolescence and adulthood, through a coordinated, long-term, progressive series of educational experiences that enhance life skills and develop social, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies.

Programs like Junior Master Gardener help kids explore their world by teaching science and math concepts while igniting a passion for learning, success, and service.


Steele said that agriculture is an essential factor in growing the economy. Agriculture creates jobs.

Producing more, selling more, adding value and increasing the safety and security of what we trade are all ways we can grow our economy through agriculture. We have an opportunity to reach new markets, use technology and innovation to add value to existing products, and help create new products to meet previously unseen needs.

Steele said technology will play an increasingly important role for Extension as well as for agriculture and the public.


These five grand challenges are, in actuality, grand opportunities for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. We have the ability to continue to improve lives of people, businesses, and communities across Texas and beyond through our unique brand of high-quality, relevant education. We can continue to innovate, embrace new technologies, and develop partnerships to ensure we are delivering knowledge to a public who needs our assistance now more than ever.

14 in ’14 is a monthly series celebrating the centennial anniversary of the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, the legislation which created the national cooperative extension system. Each month we will feature people, programs, history, and ideas highlighting some of the unique accomplishments of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

14 in ’14 is a joint effort between Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Organizational Development Unit and graduate students from the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at Texas A&M University, under the direction of Scott Cummings, Jeff Ripley, and Kevin Andrews.

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