The Old Agro-industrialization Models at CLSU (Central Luzon State University)

My purpose in writing this piece is just to give accounts and facts I am aware of in line with the industrialization of agriculture. It appears though that there is another historical revisionism on the industrialization of agriculture. Apparently, what is new thinking now is even being embraced, and in Facebook being shared by those who are not aware of the past agro-industrial research and development initiatives in the Philippines. At least there is a small part of agro-industrial research that I know because I saw it happened at a young age. However, I am alarmed by propaganda in Facebook being shared by Central Luzon State University (CLSU) graduates who may not be aware of the history of agro-industrialization research that took place inside the campus of the university in the early 70s until the mid-80s. Some of them may be also aware of these undertakings but the Facebook influence is seriously contributing to revisionism. I decided not to let it pass and instead shed light on the issue.

At least I read one comment referring to the new thinking paradigm in the Department of Agriculture says that the new thinking being projected now are already existing during the time of Secretary Sebastian. However, the comment did not mention the cotton and sunflower programs at CLSU, which I presume the one who made the comment is very familiar with also.

I grew up in front of one of the main experimental farms of CLSU. At a young age, I already saw models of agro-industrialization through the research projects initiated by Dr. Filomena Campos. These research projects were mainly for sunflower and cotton. Cotton and sunflower are industrial crops, and certainly, the direction of the research was for agro-industrialization. There is no need to question the vision of Dr. Campos. Those industrial crop business models did not grow, not because of their inferior technical merits, but because they were so modern already at that time relative to the government bureaucracy and a purely extractive private sector. We were not yet ready to leave the Planting-Rice Agriculture at that time. This system did not change anyway.

Furthermore, the advent of new irrigation systems, which increased the areas planted to two croppings of rice, also affected the introduction of alternative industrial crops after rice. While cotton reached a higher agro-industrialization level reaching Ilocos, Pangasinan, Panay, and some parts of Cotabato, sunflower did not take off. However, UP popularized sunflower later during the graduation season.

Furthermore, there was no biodiesel technology at that time. However, the design of the research and development carried out at CLSU was really towards agro-industrialization.

There was also the IAPMP Project of Kansas State University under Dr. Ed Quisumbing in the Department of Agriculture as an agro-industrial development initiative. This is the reason why CLSU has food and feed processing plants. I presume CLSU was really the right choice for the facilities because of the wide area for feed grains processing and wider area for high-value crop production in the Central Luzon Region compared to UPLB. When I learned many stories that Dr. Filomena Campos played a vital role in bringing these projects to CLSU just from the former drivers of the IAPMP Project, I really believe so that she pushed to bring the projects to CLSU.

A vital part of the project is human resources development that sent UPLB and CLSU faculty members to Kansas State U and other universities in the U.S. for postgraduate studies. At least I know that Dr. Tereso Abella, the past President of CLSU, is one of those beneficiaries. So with his predecessor, I presume, the late Dr. Ruben Sevilleja, who went to Auburn. By coincidence, the two went to the same British university I attended in the UK for their Ph.D. I met Dr. Abella, who attended also the same elementary school I attended, in Swansea in 1990.

Dr. Quisumbing would continue sending UPLB faculty abroad through the ASSP, and even researchers in the Department of Agriculture were sent to UPLB for postgraduate studies under the World Bank project that succeeded the IAMPM, which is the ASSP. I am quite familiar with IAPMP because my entry to the Department of Agriculture in 1987 was through a project of ASSP.

Let us be proud of our CLSU history. Look back before totally embracing the New Thinking. Maybe it is the other way around. What started at CLSU about half a century ago could still be considered as new thinking in agro-industrial development. In other words, the university has a rich history to share.

I also wrote a compendium of business models for agricultural modernization in 2003 or 16 years ago. Friends who have read my summary are advising me to write to the present Department of Agriculture Secretary. I answered some of them telling that I prefer the establishment of a shadow Department of Agriculture, which is Chapter 2 of my work Modernizing Philippine Agriculture. I have been advocating for this alternative way of modernizing Philippine agriculture because I saw the hardened DA bureaucracy could not address anymore the agricultural development of the country. I started to talk about this alternative structure after studying abroad and returning to the Department of Agriculture in 1991.

Nonetheless, the final chapter of my work Modernizing Philippine Agriculture is about a provincial agro-industrial modernization agenda for Nueva Ecija. We just decided to initiate the discussion to establish the Nueva Ecija Coalition for Agricultural Modernization. We are studying the implementation of a training program that will be in line with retooling the entire DA bureaucracy. In the process, we will dig the history of CLSU and study those old agro-industrialization models.

I was exposed early to large scale development projects in the National Council on Integrated Area Development, an agency under the Office of the Prime Minister. Then I moved to the Department of Agriculture, went to the Netherlands for a short training on international program administration. In the Netherlands, the visit to cooperatives, ancient irrigation systems, dairy farms, onion farms, the greenhouse farms, and the Wageningen University in the Netherlands open my eyes to an organized system of agriculture. Somebody asked me that we are also sending scholars abroad for training but why is it that they cannot think like me in the context of agricultural modernization. There is one thing I observed when I worked with Korean Engineers. They have excellent integrative skill sets. Perhaps, I have only a better integrative skill set.

In the UK, I studied development planning as a British Chevening Scholar. PhilRice, however, gave me a broader and deeper understanding of the country’s agricultural research and development system including how the state colleges and university system works.

As a frequent visitor in Timog Avenue and Visayas Avenue in the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, I learn the dynamics of bureaucratic governance from peers. If there is an invisible institution that shaped my thinking, this is perhaps the Visayas Avenue Academy.

I served as a member of the transition team of Dr. William Dar before he assumed the Acting Secretary post in the Department of Agriculture in 1998. I seriously studied the Agricultural and Fisheries which Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA). Like a trained integrated development planner, I did not look at the Act part by part but appreciated it in the context of its figure, strength, and beauty. I read the law with enjoyment. In the process, I saw beautiful model farms with human, technology, and business dimensions that are supposed to be superimposed on the strategic agricultural zones. I already saw the strong inclination that we could not take off for the implementation of the country’s agricultural modernization program. Instead, the country implemented the business as usual. I even suggested in 1998 a lockdown of the DA Rice Program and PhilRice for one year for purposes of preparing the best plan for rice self-sufficiency in line with the AFMA model farms and strategic agricultural zones. This lockdown would be complemented with a total news blackout and not involving ABS-CBN in particular because of the lack of emphasis on broader and deeper developmental journalism. Twenty years later, at least I am right. The importation of rice ballooned to 3 million metric tons per year from just 600 thousand metric tons in 1998.

I was basically alone in looking at the law from its entirety both from the outside and from the inside. Others were just busy looking at the law how they would position themselves; in other words, more for personal and professional gains.

The CLSU agro-industrialization undertakings were clustering around a facility like the food and feed processing. This infrastructure is ideal for collective entrepreneurship. If entrepreneurship is a component of the industrialization of agriculture, the spirit must be collective because of the small size of the landholding of our farmers. Individual entrepreneurship without a structure that will provide direction and order is just a mere status quo.

What I am trying to imply is for the CLSU community to stand tall and go back to our history. What we really lack is the integrative and imaginative skill sets. Perhaps this is an area of specialization that requires serious understanding and attention.

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