The formal agricultural extension service in Iran came into being in 1953, and since its inception has been affected by changes in government and agricultural policies (Salmanzadeh, 1988). In 1964 the White Revolution introduced by the then Shah of Iran had a generally negative impact on extension and agriculture. Subsequently extension agents generally came to be perceived by the public as less effective and personally became more demoralized, and farmers were less accepting of ideas from extension personnel (Malak-Mohammady, 1988). This ultimately was viewed as inhibiting the capacity of farmers to produce sufficient food for the country. Malak-Mohammady noted that until 1964 Iran was self-sufficient in food production, but began to import food subsequent to the implementation of the White Revolution. The decline in the perceived effectiveness of the extension service in Iran continued during the Islamic Revolution. Salmanzadeh (1988) noted that the revolutionary authorities upon coming to power in 1979 stressed they were committed to achieving self-sufficiency in agriculture through the development of peasant agriculture. Extension in Iran has been identified in the current five-year development plans as a critical element for again attaining agriculture self-sufficiency. Attainment of agricultural self-sufficiency requires competent extension personnel planning and implementing educational programming to meet farmers' needs.
Waldman and Spangler (1989) indicated that part of an organization's overall effectiveness is influenced by the job knowledge and skills possessed by organizational employees. Extension agents and specialists need skill and competence to design, implement and evaluate educational programs for farmers. Lack of a proper balance between technical and professional competencies in staff has been identified as a common problem in the extension services of developing countries (Bradfield, 1966; Maunder, 1972; Easter, 1985). According to Easter, one of the weaknesses in past approaches in preparing extension personnel in developing countries has been the inability to focus on the development of professional competencies. A number of studies have identified professional competencies needed by extension personnel in various countries (Randavay & Vaughn 1991; Najjingo-Kasujja & McCaslin, 1991; Easter, 1985; Ongondo, 1984; Ayewoh, 1983; Umuhak, 1980; Gonzalez, 1982; Al-Zaidi, 1979; Karami, 1979; Boonruang, 1973; Smitananda, 1958; Sabihi, 1978). The findings from these studies indicate that extension agents in developing countries should possess professional competence in the areas of administration, program planning and execution, evaluation, communications, teaching and extension methods, and understanding human behavior.