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Professors from Eastern Europe learn about market economy

Fri, Aug 22nd, 2003
Posted in Features

Four university professors from eastern Europe were browsing around the Fillmore County countryside this past week looking at the economics of agriculture. Some of the their activities included talking to farmers in the Rushford area, meeting with seed dealers and taking a tour of the ethanol plant in Preston. The group even managed to get in a little biking on the bike trail.

The four academics, who teach in universities in Russia, Yugoslavia and Kyrgystan, are participants in a six month exchange program with the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture. Called the Newly Independent States Faculty Exchange Program, the exchange started in the early 90s with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

According to Dr. John Vreyens, Director of the International Agricultural Programs at the University of Minnesota, the idea was to bring young faculty members to American universities to learn new teaching methods, become more specialized in their field of expertise using market economics, and develop courses to be used in their home universities.

Students start out in Washington, D.C. for three weeks learning about federal agricultural policy before moving on to their host university. Besides Minnesota, other colleges involved in the program this year include Colorado State, Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State universities, to mention a few.

Ed Usset, a Grain Marketing Specialist at the University of Minnesota, hosted the four students on their five day trip to the area.

Each of the students are teachers and have different areas of expertise, Usset said. They are here to learn about market economics and develop curriculums that they will use back in their countries.

Nurlan Kubenov, a professor of agricultural production at the Kyrgyz Agrarian University, said that he was amazed at the size of agricultural production and processing in this country. Nurlan, who is studying agricultural marketing and government policy while at the University of Minnesota, said that he was impressed with the ethanol plant and that as a value-added product it helps farmers to be more independent.

You can get two gallons of gasoline from one bushel of corn, Nurlan said with amazement.

While Nurlan is unsure whether an ethanol coop would work in his country of Krygystan in Central Asia, he wants to be able to teach students about ethanol production as a concept in agricultural processing and marketing.

Nurlans colleague at Krygyz Agrarian University, Akylbek Kasymov, an Accounting Professor, says that he was interested in seeing how small farmers use accounting practices and how this is important to obtaining credit, which is a big problem for small farmers in his country.

We have only recently adopted international accounting standards in Krygystan, Akylbek said. Small farmers in my country are not accustomed to keeping such detailed records.

Dr. Gordana Vukelic, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Belgrade, said that she is interested in looking at the relationship between credit and mechanization while in the United States.

She said that the transition from state-owned farming to private ownership in Yugoslavia has created the need for mechanization. She believes that credit being offered to small land holders will help agriculture develop in her country.

Tatiana Teppoeva, a Statistics Professor at St. Petersburg Sate Agrarian University in Russia, will concentrate her studies at the University of Minnesota around the use of statistical analysis in agriculture. Dr. Teppoeva said that she was interested in how government uses statistical measurement of products.

In addition to field trips to places like Fillmore County, the four academics will do research at the University and monitor classroom teaching techniques. The group will be in the United States through December.

Twenty three participants are involved in the program nationwide this year. In the five years the program has operated, some 120 students have come through the University of Minnesota.

As part of the exchange program, University of Minnesota professors will pay a reciprocal visit to the students university six months from now, to help them revise curriculums and update course material.

All four professors saw the program as a great opportunity, to learn new ideas and develop teaching methods.

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