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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
- Author: Jim Downing
UC Cooperative Extension researchers convey need for more climate change communication and curriculum tools
[NOTE: The Integrating Climate Change in California Cooperative Extension Programs Workshop will be held Feb. 6-7.]
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from natural and working lands is one of California's key climate change strategies. In particular, the potential for farm and rangeland soils to serve as carbon sinks has been getting a lot of attention lately in the national media — and during California Healthy Soils week, which wrapped up Dec. 7.
These are areas where UC Cooperative Extension, with its local presence across the state, is well-positioned to drive change. But as a recent survey of UCCE advisors, specialists and faculty found, while there is a good deal of climate work happening, there are also some significant obstacles.
The survey results — reported in an article by UCCE academics Ted Grantham, Faith Kearns, Susie Kocher, Leslie Roche and Tapan Pathak in the latest issue of California Agriculture — showed that while nearly 90 percent of respondents believe it is important to incorporate climate science into extension programming, only 43 percent currently do so.
Respondents pointed to a number of issues. One was "limited familiarity with climate science fundamentals." It's one thing to cite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and is being driven largely by human activity; it is another to be able to respond quickly and convincingly to detailed questions from doubters. This list from Grist, for instance, details more than 100 common arguments raised by climate skeptics, many of which have non-trivially complex answers.
Another important issue cited by respondents was "fear of alienating clientele by talking about a contentious topic," a response that highlights the importance of personal relationships in UCCE's work, and the challenge of communicating an area of science that is highly politicized.
The authors conclude: "To further increase the capacity of UC ANR staff to support the needs of their clientele and the broader public, professional development around climate science fundamentals, communication, and adaptation strategies is critical." As an initial follow-up, the UCANR climate change program team (led by authors Grantham, Kocher and Pathak) is presenting a workshop and professional development meeting for extension professionals in February.
To enhance funding for food and agriculture businesses in the Central Valley, more than 60 people involved in small business finance gathered at the AgPlus Funders Forum Dec. 12 to contribute ideas.
Representatives from financial institutions, economic development organizations, universities, government agencies and innovative funders like community development financial institutions (CDFI) attended. Participants shared innovative financing tools for business and discussed obstacles for people in rural communities to access capital at the forum at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building in Davis.
Two primary challenges faced by people trying to start a new business are figuring out how to get started – such as their supply chain – and gaining access to capital to finance their endeavor, according to keynote speaker Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“There are actually an array of sources of capital beyond just the traditional bank loan, the problem is people don't know about them or how to access them,” Humiston said. She added that much more capital could be available to Central Valley businesses if residents would invest locally. “If you had brought home just one percent of the retirement accounts held by people in the AgPLUS region back in 2010, you would have had over $1 billion to invest in this region,” she said.
Marc Nemanic of 3CORE, Carrie Ellinwood of U.S. Small Business Administration, Ismael Herrero of Fresno State's Office of Community and Economic Development, and Catherine Howard of Northern California Community Loan Fund discussed some of the challenges for financing new businesses and alternatives to traditional bank loans.
Nemanic noted that many millennials are carrying student loan debt, which may make them averse to taking on more debt or prevent them from qualifying for business loans.
Howard said her organization is creating a tool to help people satisfy collateral requirements for credit.
To build their businesses, entrepreneurs often need technical assistance so Herrera's office pairs young companies with experienced mentors and other services. Herrera said he is working to create public and private partnerships in rural communities, such as commercial kitchens for people to turn farm produce into value-added products to sell at farmers markets.
Panelists pointed out that jobs in the gig economy, such as driving for Uber or Lyft, don't provide the stable income that tradition lenders seek in borrowers so they need to create a flexible product.
In the afternoon, participants split into four groups to focus on identifying opportunities for supporting economic development, supporting small business and microenterprises, effective intermediaries to connect investors with entrepreneurs, and regional finance funds. Each topic was discussed by a diverse group of people as peers and experts, bringing their own expertise to the table.
To address the interplay between higher education, student debt and the structural changes in the nation's economy, Meg Arnold, who moderated the session, said she could foresee policy implications.
“Student debt is not forgivable,” said Arnold, managing director of Valley Vision. “At the same time we are making a four-year university degree both more necessary and less affordable, the economy is also changing, to the point that some graduates may need to think of self-employment or gig economy employment.
“We need everybody who participated today to share those examples of where something kind of unique or innovative is really working,” said Humiston.
Ideas generated during the forum will be used to inform the work of the Central Valley AgPLUS Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, which hosted the AgPlus Funders Forum. The information will also be used by Humiston to update the 2012 Capital Access Report by California Financial Opportunities Roundtable (CalFOR). The report highlights financial needs for businesses in California, reviews financial tools and capital sources and provides policy recommendations. Humiston will also convey the outcomes to the California Economic Summit.
The AgPlus Funders Forum was sponsored by Chase Bank, Valley Vision, the Center for Economic Development, First Northern Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Employment Training Panel, Blue Tech Valley, Fresno State Community and Economic Development and UC ANR.
- Author: Erin Spaniel
The UC ANR Staff Assembly Council is pleased to announce the 2017-18 Scholarship program.
The UC ANR Staff Assembly has established a scholarship program that is available to all UC ANR staff employees and county-paid employees. The scholarship provides financial assistance to UC ANR staff to pursue career interests, develop new career paths, and address knowledge or skill gaps needed to reach professional development goals.
This year's award dates are for courses taken between May 1, 2017, and April 15, 2018. Deadline for applications is close of business April 15, 2018. Late applications will not be accepted. Courses taken after April 15, 2018, will be eligible for reimbursement on the next scholarship cycle of April 16, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2018.
For complete details please go to the UC ANR Staff Assembly website: http://staffassembly.ucanr.edu/News.
Last year's scholarship recipients were Jerry Harris, office manager for UCCE San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and Ria Debiase, pest management guidelines coordinator for the UC IPM Program in Davis. Here's what they have to say about their experience:
1. Tell us about yourself – Where do you work, what do you do, are you a county-paid or UC-paid employee?
Ria Debiase: I work for UC IPM in the ANR building on Second Street. I am the pest management guidelines coordinator.
2. How did you hear about the UC ANR Staff Assembly scholarship program?
Jerry Harris: One of the members of the Staff Assembly informed me of the program.
Ria Debiase: During an ANR Staff Meeting where Matt Baur presented.
3. What class did you take and how does it relate to your professional development goals?
Jerry Harris: I am taking several classes as I work towards earning my bachelor's degree in business with an emphasis on accounting. I earned my associates degree in accounting back in 2012. The junior level classes that I have completed for this scholarship have been: public administration, team building and intro to organization behavior, which I passed with two Bs and one A. All three of those classes were taken at National University. These classes helped me in my progress in earning my degree and are all with the intent to work towards achieving advancement in my career.
4. Was it difficult to apply for the scholarship funds?
Jerry Harris: No, it was pretty straightforward process.
Ria Debiase: The main challenge was some glitchiness in turning in copies of my receipts through File Vault. The completed course requirement was also a challenge, in that there are some courses I would only consider if the scholarship money was approved ahead of time. Otherwise the process was fairly straightforward.
Note from Staff Assembly: For future application submissions, Staff Assembly Council now requests copies of receipts via email instead of through the file transfer process.
5. Will you apply for scholarship funds in the future?
Jerry Harris: Absolutely.
Ria Debiase: Yes, definitely.
6. Would you recommend the scholarship program to other employees?
Jerry Harris: Yes, this program really helps to offset the expensive costs of higher education.
Ria Debiase: Yes!
The Intermountain REC is a 140-acre research facility located at 4,000 feet elevation near the Oregon border. IREC specializes in potato, small grain, onion, peppermint, forage grasses and alfalfa; however, most cool season field and vegetable crops can be accommodated and grown on the center. Research topics of interest include variety development, integrated pest management, irrigation management, plant nutrition, and agriculture-wildlife interactions.
Available IREC facilities and equipment include a greenhouse, controlled post-harvest facility, drying ovens, an automated potato grading line, a mini-still for essential oil extraction, specialized small plot irrigation equipment, research-adapted small plot planters and harvesters and a full line of commercial farm equipment for field and vegetable crop production. Technical assistance is available for all farming practices, field instrumentation and data collection.
IREC's Research Advisory Committee will evaluate proposed research for scientific merit and regional need. Approved projects will be eligible for center-provided support including land, labor, technical assistance, equipment and facilities.
Questions about the research proposal process or about research opportunities at IREC should be directed to Director Rob Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or the center superintendent Darrin Culp at email@example.com or by phone at (530) 667-5117.
Proposals may be submitted into the REC Manage System via the IREC Website and are due no later than Feb. 12, 2018.