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Ag-based Economic Development for the New Economy

March 23, 2001

Few economic sectors have experienced the combined economic, technological, social, biological, and – now with threats of mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases – medical pressures that confront American agriculture. Adding the challenges of competing in the knowledge-based economy presents a formidable task for rural regions.

New Valley Connexions, a public-private partnership in California that teams agriculture businesses with both state and local governments as well as the larger business, financial, and educational communities, may provide a worthy model for study and replication in other parts of the country. Core funding for the initiative was provided by the Division of Science, Technology and Innovation within the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency.

Over the past three years, the partnership has developed plans for and is implementing a cluster-based economic development strategy, a comprehensive telecommunications plan, and a strategy to address digital divide issues for the eight-county San Joaquin Valley. An offshoot of the telecom plan is a builders’ seminar, to be held April 5, that will provide developers, planners, lenders, and communication companies strategic guidance on wiring the Valley's neighborhoods and offices for broadband communications services.

Producing A Competitive Advantage, the latest report from New Valley Connexions, outlines a tech-based economic development strategy for the region’s agri-businesses that focuses on the technological and marketplace dynamics of the New Economy and agri-technologies and processes for overcoming critical environmental issues.

The plan includes five recommendations for the San Joaquin Valley to implement to help the region address the forces of change in the agricultural sector: consolidation of the food distribution chain, technological advances, globalization, and mass market fragmentation. The recommendations, each of which has multiple action items identified for implementation, are:

  • Redefine the role of production agriculture in the New Economy, and facilitate an education initiative to help individual producers and processors better understand the changes they face.
  • Use technology to address major environmental challenges, with emphasis on air and water quality issues.
  • Make the San Joaquin Valley a center of research and development for agri-based new product development.
  • Provide the San Joaquin Valley agricultural community with access to a broadband infrastructure.
  • Develop a marketing identity, including brands.

Several additional opportunities are identified for the Valley to explore in each of the technological challenges identified in the report, such as ag-based biotech,  precision agriculture, integrated pest management, ag engineering, and environmental issues.

More information on the New Valley Connexions program, including the various strategic plans, can be found at: http://www.greatvalley.org/nvc/index.html