Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Resource Education and Workforce Development

First Advisor

Joe W. Kotrlik


The purpose of this study was to describe extension agricultural agents' perceptions of sustainable agriculture in the Southern Region of the United States. The population included Cooperative Extension county/parish agents with major responsibility in agriculture working in the 13 states of the Southern Region of the United States. These individuals were either employed by the thirteen institutions established by the Morrill Act of 1862 (the 1862 Cooperative Extension Services) or by eleven institutions established by the Second Morrill Act of 1890 (the 1890 Cooperative Extension Services). The study investigated agents' perceptions of sustainable agriculture concepts, and agents' perceptions of factors and their potential impacts on the sustainability of production agriculture. The study also investigated agents' perceptions of trends and their relationship to the future of sustainable agriculture, their perceptions of the capabilities of the Cooperative Extension Service in sustainable agriculture, and their perceived competencies in sustainable agriculture. Differences in the above perceptions were investigated by the following variables: age, farm clientele with whom major amount of time was spent, technical area where major amount of time was spent, undergraduate major, graduate major, farm background, and type of institution of employment. Data collection was accomplished by means of a mailed questionnaire with a 95% return rate. Respondents perceived that the Cooperative Extension Service provides the major leadership in areas of sustainable agriculture technology in their county/parish and that more time and funding should be allocated for training in the areas of sustainable agriculture. Respondents perceived themselves to be slightly or moderately competent in sustainable agriculture. The lowest mean rating was for the use of computer software in sustainable agriculture while the highest mean rating was for minimum tillage production systems. Respondents with farm background perceived themselves to be more competent in sustainable agriculture than agents with no farm background. Respondents working in rural plant science perceived themselves to be more competent in sustainable agriculture than agents working in rural animal science or urban plant science. No statistically significant differences were found at the.05 level in perceptions of competencies between the agents employed by the 1862 Cooperative Extension Services and the 1890 Cooperative Extension Services.