PLAINVIEW - In West Texas, it is obvious that agriculture plays a major role in the local economy. With that in mind, Wayland Baptist University offers its students a degree in agri-business.
Wayland's degree doesn't focus on agriculture production, but emphasizes the business of converting what is produced into useful products for the consumer.
"We look at it more from the fence to the plate," said Division of Business Chairman Dr. Otto B. Schacht. "Normally we think of agriculture as the production of meat, mutton, cotton, plants and animals. But along with that, there are such things as packing plants, cotton gins, grain storage facilities, grain milling facilities, tortilla factories, dairies, cheese plants and all the implement structure. There is more than planting that seed and hoping it produces.
"The degree is designed to give students knowledge of the application of business principles and practices in agriculture and its related industries."
Schacht said the number of people involved in agriculture production continues to dwindle as agriculture production units, "what we like to call farms," increase in size. However, the industries other than production are not declining as rapidly because there is still the need to convert the raw product into something the consumer can use. Schacht said it is important to know that side of the agriculture industry.
"Today, one guy can raise more cattle, but those cattle still have to be slaughtered, packed, shipped, inspected and all those kinds of things," he said.
This region has seen an increase in things such as dairies and cheese plants. Schacht said the increase is directly related to our other agriculture industry.
"We have a lot of water and we produce the corn the dairies use for silage. That is one reason they are moving here from other parts of the country," he said.
Still, things change daily and agriculture can be a volatile industry.
"If the government all of a sudden quits paying for CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, I'm sure a lot of that would be put back into production. And as the water situation changes over time, that could really affect a major part of our agriculture," Schacht said.
But don't ever count out the farmer.
"Our American producer is efficient at using the resources to produce food for us," Schacht said. "There will always be agriculture and there will always be the conversion of those products into things the consumer wants. Is it larger companies doing it? Yeah. There is consolidation of industry every day, but there is still going to be people involved in those processes."