ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

PAC discusses innovation and advocacy

President Napolitano, center, jokes with PAC chair Don Bransford, left.

Kicking off the meeting by expressing sympathy for everyone affected by wildfires – including the ANR members and Master Gardener volunteers who lost their homes – UC President Janet Napolitano met with the President's Advisory Commission (PAC) at their biannual meeting Dec. 13 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Emeryville.

President Napolitano focused her remarks on the challenges that remain with our food system, saying that she sees endless possibilities for ANR to bring food and ag together with science and technology for agricultural innovation. She also praised ANR for expanding access to its programs and achieving parity in participation of Latino youth in 4-H activities.

PAC member Craig McNamara, left, talks with Anne Megaro.
Asked about UC's role in production of the state's newly legal crop, Napolitano asked for a report from a systemwide group studying how UC can get involved in cannabis research without running afoul of federal law. VP Chief of Staff Jan Corlett, who represents ANR in that group, offered to relay the PAC's comments at their next meeting.

Napolitano invited the PAC members to join the UC Advocacy Network, or UCAN, to keep informed about state and federal issues that impact the university.

VP Glenda Humiston introduced Anne Megaro, governmental and community relations director. Megaro, who has a Ph.D. in animal science and was the California State Senate Committee on Agriculture's consultant for five years, spoke about her background and discussed how she is working with academics to cultivate relationships with elected officials by sharing stories about their work.

“Every legislator should know ANR because we're in their district,” Megaro said.

“How can I help you talk about ANR?” she asked the PAC members, who responded positively.

Gabe Youtsey discussed ANR's agriculture innovation strategy.

Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer, described how the Internet of Things, data analysis, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones and plant biotechnology are helping farmers cope with challenges, including workforce shortages, water scarcity and pest pressure. The Apps for Ag hackathons have produced useful tools, but poor rural connectivity is limiting the benefits. 

Dean Lairmore snapped a selfie with President Napolitano
“If we don't solve rural connectivity,” Youtsey warned, “We'll have ag brick instead of ag tech because it won't work.”

He also described the recently launched The VINE, which is designed to catalyze a statewide system to support innovation, entrepreneurship, expand economic opportunities and develop new technology for agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. Youtsey said food and agriculture need “patient capital” investors because venture capitalists desire a fast return on their investment.

Associate Vice President Wendy Powers briefed the commission on ANR's strategic plan. Our “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is for every Californian to recognize the positive impact ANR has in their lives. The actions will be guided by UCANR's core values: excellence, community, innovation, inclusion, collaboration and integrity. Public value statements are being developed to shape our efforts and “they will give us the elevator speech to articulate who we are and what we do,” Powers said.

Dean Uhrich posted a selfie with President Napolitano on Instagram.
Powers also updated the PAC on recent successes, including boosting Giving Tuesday donations by 24 percent over 2016. She announced that 4-H increased its statewide youth enrollment by 18 percent and number of 4-H volunteers by 15 percent and that ANR has completed a salary equity program for staff and advisors and continues to improve internet speeds in county and REC facilities.

In the deans' updates, Keith Gilless announced that in June he will be stepping down as dean of the College of Natural Resources after 11 years to return to his academic work in fire research. Deans Helene Dillard of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Kathryn Uhrich of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Michael Lairmore of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Gilless shared news of awards and large grants received and major projects underway in their respective colleges and school.

In wrapping up the meeting, Humiston announced that Mike Mellano, Dina Moore and Jean Marie Peltier will represent California in Washington D.C. for the CARET (Council on Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching) meeting in March to advocate for agricultural research and the Farm Bill.

She invited the PAC members to meet next in April in Ontario, in conjunction with the ANR statewide meeting.

Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 10:46 PM

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