Expanding ANR's academic footprint, leveraging citizen science and applying research to policy were on the agenda for the UC President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources when they met Dec. 18 in Oakland at UC Office of the President. The commissioners also discussed how to ensure the long-term success of UC ANR and the role of the PAC in helping to sustain UC's Agriculture and Natural Resources research and Extension mission.
Jean-Mari Peltier, who succeeded Don Bransford as chair, welcomed new commissioners: Celeste Cantu, vice chair of the San Diego Water Quality Control Board; Lucas Frerichs, associate director of state policy for The Nature Conservancy; Corinne Martinez, partner in the Martinez Family Limited Partnership and Berryessa Gap Vineyards; and Cher Watte, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission. Mike Mellano, CEO of Farming for Mellano & Company, also began serving as vice chair.
UC President Janet Napolitano was unexpectedly summoned to meet with Governor Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, so she met with the group later in the day.
Vice President Glenda Humiston gave the commissioners an update on UC ANR activities and plans to expand the academic footprint. Although a flat budget has constrained hiring, ANR partnered to fund nine academics, which will provide salary savings of $700,000 over 5 years. With $1.6 million from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC ANR hired 14 community educators for 3 years. The UC Presidential Matches leveraged six donors to provide $6 million for UC ANR endowed positions.
She showed a series of maps, explaining how UC ANR is trying to fill positions by discipline and location in the state.
Humiston lamented that most UCCE advisors serve more than one county. “Multicounty assignments are not ideal,” she said. “This is a big state -- 30 of our counties are bigger than other U.S. states. We've got to get more people out in the field.”
To meet the evolving needs of California, the division will seek to hire academics to address farm mechanization, pest management for organic agriculture, fire science,agritourism and community and economic development, in addition to current positions.
To give the PAC members a broader perspective of the ways UC ANR connects with the public beyond UC Cooperative Extension advisor and community educator interactions with clientele, Humiston invited speakers from within and outside of UC ANR.
Heidi Ballard and Ryan Meyer of the UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science and Mark Bell, UC ANR Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Statewide Programs, discussed opportunities for expanding citizen science with UC ANR.
Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension director and forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, described how she engages stakeholders and policymakers in her region. She is an active member of the California Fire Science Consortium to educate the public – including regulatory agencies, the insurance industry and community planners -- about fire. Because of her expertise, legislators have asked Valachovic for advice in crafting policy for forest management and wildfire.
“All of our academics have expertise,” Humiston said, “but not everyone is comfortable talking to legislators.”
Anne Megaro, government and community relations director; Lorna Krkich, executive director of development services; Linda Forbes, director of strategic communications; and Jim Downing, director of publishing, described the functions of their units.
Krkich reported an 8% increase in donations and a 79.4% growth in Giving Tuesday donations over the past two years.
The participants, seated at tables of four to six people, discussed the following questions:
1. What are your recommendations on actions needed to ensure the long-term success/sustainability of UC ANR? (including communications, programming, expanding reach, government relations, fund development, etc.)
2. What should the role of the PAC be in helping to sustain UC ANR?
3. What will make your membership/participation on this Commission personally meaningful?
Some of the recommendations for ensuring long-term success included training academics to be spokespeople, taking funders on tours to see firsthand the benefits resulting from UC ANR research and extension, and educating the new UC president about UC ANR. The commissioners also suggested crafting messages about UC ANR that are easy for the public to understand.
PAC members offered to introduce UC Cooperative Extension directors to other influencers and to tell people about the value of UC ANR. They asked to receive information about UC ANR activities more often than the biannual meetings and Connected newsletters, including calls for specific actions that PAC members could take to help.
Deans Helene Dillard, David Ackerly, Kathryn Uhrich and Michael Lairmore gave campus updates, then the commissioners met with President Napolitano at her residence.
Several people asked Napolitano about the search for her successor. She explained the presidential search process and encouraged the PAC members to participate in the town halls and to submit their suggestions for criteria for candidates to UCPresidentSearch@ucop.edu.
The PAC will meet next in the spring.
The UC ANR Advisory Committee, appointed by President Janet Napolitano to consider options for UC ANR's structure, governance and funding, submitted its recommendations to her, Don Bransford told the UC President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources (PAC), which met Dec. 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Berkeley.
PAC Chair Bransford, who also served on the UC ANR Advisory Committee, said the committee saw opportunities to strengthen governance, increase budgetary transparency, provide more stable and predictable funding models and enhance collaborations between UC ANR and UC's broader academic and research enterprise.
The committee, which included deans Kathryn Uhrich of the UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Michael Lairmore of the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, consulted internal and external stakeholders, then conducted its own analyses in consultation with UC ANR leaders.
The committee made four key recommendations:
- Maintain UC ANR's status as a systemwide program within UCOP, reporting to the president.
- Create a UC ANR governing council for oversight and to promote greater understanding of UC ANR across the university.
- Create a funding model using a combination of the “set-aside” and “corridor” models.
- Retain campus oversight of and reporting responsibility for state Agricultural Experiment Station funds.
Napolitano told the PAC she would be moving forward on the recommendations because she thinks they will ensure ANR greater budget stability, a broader understanding of ANR across the UC system and create more opportunities for collaboration between ANR and campus academics. She issued a statement Dec. 19 on her decisions for UC ANR.
Uhrich said she sees the governing council as an “opportunity to educate, integrate and be inclusive” to have people from across the UC system and outside of UC participating.
In other discussions, Napolitano commended ANR employees for their responses to the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, noting that employees and volunteers lost homes in the devastating wildfires.
At a recent meeting with some legislators to discuss automation and the future of work, wildfire, health issues and homelessness, Napolitano said the policymakers told her they want to hear more from UC experts to help them think through policy challenges.
One commissioner commented, “We're going to have more fires, more foodborne illness outbreaks. Let's have our folks out there to talk to media and have them wearing a UC shirt.”
Napolitano replied, “I like the idea of folks wearing UC garb when they're on TV.”
Humiston and Tu Tran, associate vice president for business operations, briefed the PAC on ANR's budget. Administrative costs are up this fiscal year to invest $4 million to join UCPath, the new systemwide payroll and personnel system. UC ANR has begun the transition and will go live in March-April. “Ultimately UCPath will save us money, but it's costing us now,” Humiston said.
Due to budget constraints, Humiston explained that UC ANR isn't offering competitive grants nor announcing UCCE positions to be filled in 2018-19. Recruitment for previously approved positions is ongoing and new hiring will begin as resources become available to make the long-term commitment to support positions.
In her budget PowerPoint presentation for the PAC, Humiston listed actions ANR has taken in the past to compensate for budget cuts and steps that will be taken in FY 2018-19.
Tran explained that UC ANR relies on six sources of funds – state, federal, county, extramural, endowments and income from gifts, patents, investments and program fees. State funds, which constitute the largest portion of the division's funding, pay for employee salaries and benefits. He noted government funding is highly volatile so “we are trying to raise money in other ways.”
California Agricultural Resources Archive
UC Merced's librarian HaiPeng Li, project archivist Lisa Valens and project director Emily Lin gave a presentation on the California Agricultural Resources Archive or CARA. The UC Cooperative Extension archive project, which was launched after UC Cooperative Extension's centennial in 2014, started with UCCE in Merced, Humboldt and Ventura counties. The team has been digitizing annual reports and historical photos to make them accessible to the public and researchers.
“The data isn't just history,” Humiston asserted. “There are notes on research that may hold the key to something like huanglongbing.”
Mining the data, advanced analysis and linking to other information might open new avenues of research, she said.
UC ANR is seeking partners and trying to raise funds for the archive project. Jim Downing, publications director, will assume leadership of the project to succeed Jan Corlett, chief of staff to the vice president, who plans to retire in July.
To help students with career planning, Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said she seeks UCCE advisors to show students the research and outreach being done in the counties and planning a course on Cooperative Extension to introduce students to career options. She is in talks to partner with UC Davis medical center on health research such as the connection between diet and disease.
David Ackerly, dean of the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, announced the recent hiring of new Cooperative Extension specialists Ellen Bruno for policy analysis and Rob York for fire and policy, and that he is striving to create new faculty positions that will not depend on state money. He also announced that UC Cooperative Extension specialist Adina Merenlender received a $5 million gift to train California climate stewards through a program similar to California Naturalist. Ackerly also noted that Giannini Hall is closing temporarily for seismic upgrades so faculty and staff are packing to move out during construction.
Katherine Uhrich, dean of the UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, announced CNAS has hired 24 faculty this year including two Nobel laureates – Richard Shrock and Barry Barish. She also announced that Givaudan, a Swiss company that creates fragrances and flavors, is donating funds to cover UCR's citrus variety collection, to protect the trees from pests and diseases.
Michael Lairmore, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, announced that his veterinary team worked tirelessly treating animals injured during the Camp Fire, taking in 70 animals, most of which have returned to their families. About $2 million has been donated to offset the costs of treating the animals. Veterinarian Jamie Peyton covered burns on cats and dogs with tilapia skin to help with healing and has a provisional patent for the fish skin treatment. Lairmore also announced the school is planning to build a Livestock and Field Service Center. “We are in need of donations and there are naming opportunities for interested individuals or companies,” Lairmore told PAC members. He also announced the hiring of Emmanuel Okello, the new UCCE specialist in antimicrobial stewardship.
The PAC, which meets twice a year, will meet next in the spring.
As part of the University of California Office of the President restructuring effort, President Napolitano appointed an advisory committee to determine a set of recommendations regarding UC ANR. The committee has been asked to explore structural, funding and associated governance options that will best support UC ANR and the University of California.
The committee is chaired by David Marshall, UC Santa Barbara executive vice chancellor, and consists of UC chancellors and deans, as well as representatives of the UC Board of Regents, UC Academic Senate, UC President's Advisory Commission on ANR, and the Executive President's Advisory Group.
The advisory committee has met a few times and has received background materials on UC ANR, said VP Glenda Humiston. Future meetings will delve into how UC ANR allocates funds and prioritizes program delivery. The advisory committee will begin interviewing UC ANR stakeholders in the next few weeks.
The advisory committee's goal is to bring final recommendations to the president and UC Board of Regents before the end of the year.
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: Mike Janes
Downtown Oakland was the site of the biannual UC President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources (PAC) meeting on Aug. 9, which included a Q&A session with President Napolitano, program presentations from UC Cooperative Extension county directors Rob Bennaton and Igor Lacan, and updates from deans Helene Dillard (UC Davis), Keith Gilless (UC Berkeley) and Kathryn Uhrich (UC Riverside), as well as Executive Associate Dean John Pascoe (filling in for Dean Michael Lairmore, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine).
In her opening remarks, UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston introduced Mark Bell, the division's new vice provost for statewide programs and strategic initiatives. Bell spoke about the strength of the UC system, the diversity of programs offered by UC ANR statewide, and his plans to leverage the strong volunteer and staff base of programs like UC Master Gardeners and 4-H.
Humiston also offered updates on the division's strategic plan and the significant progress made in implementing its key goals. Associate Vice President Tu Tran then gave a presentation on the division's financial situation, which he titled “A Fiscal Plan for Success.” Tran addressed UC ANR's place in the state budget and its revenue projections through FY 2021-22, which includes significant growth in major gifts and fundraising.
Bennaton and Lacan both gave spirited and enthusiastic presentations that were received well. Bennaton, who serves as county director for Alameda and Contra Costa counties as well as UCCE urban agriculture advisor for the Bay Area, discussed the benefits of urban agriculture and the assortment of activities going on in community development, habitat restoration and youth programming.
Lacan, also a UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for the Bay Area and co-director in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, talked about the diverse and richly rewarding work he spearheads in urban forestry. His work currently focuses on sustainable management of urban trees and urban water.
During a Q&A period, the president engaged PAC members on various issues such as potential public-private partnerships that could involve UC ANR, targeted approaches to advocacy and deferred maintenance needs for UC writ large but also for UC ANR and its research and extension centers system, specifically.
The deans gave updates on research and activities occurring at their respective colleges and school.
The next PAC meeting is scheduled for December, also in Oakland.