Rural society has been subjected to a series of forces during the course of the last two decades. Since the advent of the 1980s, the economic viability of many farm operations has been severely jeopardized. Although attention has been directed primarily to the Midwest farm belt, farm stress has, in many respects, been greater in the South than in any other region of the country. Moreover, the crisis is not strictly an agricultural one, for a large number of communities across the rural landscape, especially in the South, have been subjected to crises of their own. While the so-called "rural crisis" in the South has been an outgrowth of the changed economic conditions of the 1980s, it additionally has been based on deep-seated problems that have existed in the region for decades. Unfortunately, despite the severe hardships facing rural areas of the South, the land-grant institutions of the South are ill equipped to respond to the needs of these communities. Further exacerbating the situation is a federal policy that has reduced support for rural development program initiatives at the state and local levels. It is argued that the land-grant programs of the South must embrace a rural development initiative as part of their mission and develop new strategies for realizing economic development and visionary leadership in rural communities of the South.

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