In 2011, a team of ~20 UD and UFLA faculty (insert hotlinks to UD and UFLA faculty team pages) combined to secure funding from the USDA International Science Education Program (USDA-ISE) to expand research and teaching collaborations that began in 2008 (see History of UD-UFLA Partnership, below). The rationale for our USDA-ISE project was summarized in our proposal as follows:
Agriculture in the 21st Century is truly a global enterprise, with worldwide economic and environmental impacts. Agriculture’s “grand challenges” are well known. Foremost among them are the need for integrated approaches to provide a safe and secure food supply to a rapidly growing world population; creating agricultural production systems with minimal impacts on air, water, and soil quality, natural ecosystems and human health; developing sustainable cropping systems for renewable bioenergy sources; and contributing to efforts to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Meeting these challenges requires that we ensure our future scientists and agricultural leaders not only have scientific and technical expertise, but also the competence to apply their skills internationally, in both developed and developing countries. Brazil, considered an “emerging and developing country” by the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has one of the world’s largest and fastest growing agricultural economies and is a major U.S. trade partner. Brazil’s rapid transition to becoming a global leader in food and bioenergy production, along with the environmental and economic impacts surrounding this transition, presents unique opportunities for U.S. faculty and students to understand and share in this countries shift to becoming a developed one. For example, in the past 25 years, Brazil has markedly increased its production and export of commodity crops, has established one of the largest national biofuel crop programs using sugarcane, and has experienced an enormous growth in the animal agriculture sector. This has also led to a number of serious concerns including loss of biodiversity as natural ecosystems (e.g., Amazon forests) are converted to cropland, degradation of soils and pollution of ground and surface waters as agriculture intensifies to meet food and energy needs; and environmental impacts of converting to the geographically intensified animal production systems common to the U.S. and Europe Consequently, for U.S. faculty and students to succeed in the global agriculture of the 21st Century, they must be engaged in educational and research programs in countries such as Brazil that are actively seeking such partnerships. By doing so, they experience first-hand the agricultural and environmental problems of developing nations and learn directly about the different, often quite innovative approaches being used to solve them under cultural, socio-political, geographic, and climatic conditions that are very unlike those in the U.S.