in times of need
Hurricane Floyd flooded eastern North Carolina and left a death toll of at least 51, billions of dollars in destruction to property - including more than $799 million in crop loss, destroyed livestock and damaged farm equipment and structures - and immeasurable devastation to the lives of survivors. As the magnitude of the storm's ravages still emerges with the tallies of human suffering, citizens of the state have rallied to assist their eastern neighbors. Among those have been the College's Floyd Response Team, under the auspices of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, and the department of family and consumer sciences' "CALS Floyd Relief Drive." Campus specialists provided expert advice about cleanup and recovery, and our department of communication services mobilized delivery of that information, including Spanish-language translation of key topics, as well as a listing of 30 experts to contact in subjects ranging from agriculture to water quality, from home repair to food safety, from mosquitoes to snakes.
Additionally, county Extension agents from non-affected counties traveled to assist agents in impacted areas. At the same time, our 4-H members helped by collecting food and clothing for flood victims.
These are just a few of the numerous relief efforts in which College representatives are taking a lead, but they serve to illustrate that our capability for local response via our Extension Service is particularly important in times of crisis.
It is fitting to mention these efforts in this issue of Perspectives, which is focused upon the role of the College's extension, research and teaching entities in assisting citizens of the state. For, even without the hurricane's fury, there has been no time like the present for the College to be there to provide guidance and expertise in a climate of change. While flood waters begin to recede in the east, the effects of drought linger in parts of the west, as do other areas of concern statewide.
Dramatic quota cuts for flue-cured tobacco, along with declining prices for every major commodity grown in this state, will leave many North Carolina farmers with sharply reduced incomes for 1999. Meanwhile, farmers face other changes that create significant stress: urban encroachment, tougher environmental standards, rapidly emerging bioengineered crops and evolving consumer preferences.
As College alumnus Dr. Joe Coffey stated in Cooperative Farmer magazine, "a crisis caused by multiple factors is not likely to be resolved by a single solution."
To provide responsive and relevant educational programming that effectively addresses this complex climate of change and challenge, the College is taking wide-reaching, multidisciplinary approaches. In this issue of Perspectives you will read about College efforts to help our clientele manage change and cope with current financial stress.
In the second feature article, College agricultural economists Dr. Chuck Moore and Dr. Arnie Oltmans discuss how agriculture came to experience this crisis, with an admonition that "the bottom line with what's happening now underscores the need for farmers to manage, manage, manage." The article that follows reveals that College faculty members are poised to help farmers do just that.
The College has long advocated agricultural diversification as a means of allowing farmers to survive when prices for particular crops fall. The key to successful agricultural diversification is a selection of alternatives from which farmers may choose based on their individual situations. This issue presents the initiatives available on the College's menu of alternatives.
As always, these targeted attempts at addressing the specific needs arising from current agricultural changes and upheavals will complement the College's ongoing teaching, research and extension efforts aimed at strengthening agribusiness, our state's leading industry.
James L. Oblinger
Dean, College of Agriculture
and Life Sciences