- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
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.
Over the course of the past 11 months, UC ANR has undertaken a position call process to identify the priority UCCE advisor and UCCE specialist position needs to support the work of the division. After a great deal of work, 46 positions were identified by the UC ANR Program Council and divided into three categories (highest, high, and can wait). Although we will utilize this categorization to the degree possible, the reality is that we need each and every one of those positions to serve our mission – all 46 positions are high priority to me. Furthermore, there are additional positions needed that were not on the list of 46 positions but are important gaps that have arisen over the course of the year. This includes three CE advisor positions vacated within two years of hire and not re-opened for recruitment.
Despite that, and unlike past years, we will not be releasing a list of approved positions at this time. The current budget situation leaves us unable to recruit immediately for positions reviewed during the 2018 process. All positions will remain under consideration based on funding availability, including the opportunity to find funding partners to share position costs.
This difficult decision is part of a larger effort to manage a challenging financial situation that also includes reductions to statewide programs and less subsidy for research at our RECs. UC ANR has managed the past several years of budget cuts and unfunded obligations through judicious use of our reserves, increases to program fees, fundraising and excellent work by our academics to increase the capture of competitive grants. While those options allow us to maintain a strong program and continue to deliver our research and extension mission, sound fiscal management does not allow us to expand academic positions in the immediate future.
2019 recruitment depends on budget and partners
Having said that, it is my sincere intent to recruit for a small number of these 2018 positions during the 2019 calendar year. As the FY19/20 budget unfolds, we will closely watch retirement announcements, the impact of those retirements on critical gaps in service, and any other items that might affect the budget available for recruiting. In addition, we will actively seek opportunities to partner with various entities to jointly fund positions as a key strategy to maintain or, preferably, increase our academic numbers. As a result, the order of recruitments may vary from the categorized list provided to me and we may also need to re-evaluate whether priorities have changed along the way.
More 2016 positions to be filled
Our academic numbers remain steady, not growing at a rate we wish to see, but steady nonetheless. This is in large part because academic HR, search committees, vice provosts, and campus departments have worked very hard over the last two years to recruit talent and fill positions identified during the 2014 and 2016 position call processes. All of the positions approved during the 2014 call have been filled; you might recall that at the time that the 2016 positions were approved, 25 of the positions approved in 2014 were still vacant. All but three of the 26 positions approved in the 2016 position call process are filled or under recruitment. The remaining positions (two CE advisor and one CE specialist positions) will be released for recruitment very soon. Additionally, the three FTE that were reserved for partnership opportunities have resulted in six new academics: three CE advisor positions filled, one CE advisor position under recruitment, and two CE specialist positions under recruitment. This valuable tool allows us to jointly fund positions with external partners as well as other parts of the UC system; we will be exploring how best to expand and leverage this moving forward.
Recruitment and retention of top talent a priority
Recruitment and retention of top talent is a crucial strategic objective. Toward that end, I recently announced approval of year two of a four-year salary equity plan for CE advisors that will bring their salaries into market norms. Offering competitive salaries to our academics and staff is of highest priority to me and the entire UC ANR leadership. Despite our budget challenges, we are pleased to be able to continue with this extremely important plan to improve academic salaries that had failed to keep pace with increased cost of living and academic norms for many years.
While the current budget situation for UC ANR is reminiscent of similar scenarios in the past, it is a strong wake-up call on the need to find new ways to fund our mission. State and federal support for the land grant mission has decreased or, at best, remained flat for the past few decades. UC ANR, the national Cooperative Extension system, the Agriculture Experiment Station system, and public research institutions in general, are at a crossroads – we must develop better ways to fund our mission, deliver our programs and leverage partnerships. This will include deployment of different business models. UC ANR is actively doing just that, while adapting to change along the way. I am confident that by remaining mission-focused we will grow stronger, more impactful, and more relevant to California and beyond.
To answer questions about the positions process, VP Humiston held a town hall on Nov. 29. A recording of the 30-minute town hall is at http://bit.ly/2BGvO73.
On June 22, Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which contains a new line item for UC ANR within the UCOP budget. UC ANR will have the same amount of funding from the state for the upcoming year as we had this year. While we appreciate that ANR did not suffer additional cuts, we still need to deal with unfunded obligations of $4 million to $5 million. This results from the UC system getting an increase of 3 percent in the coming fiscal year, which will cause increases in salaries and benefits.
We are managing this $4 million to $5 million in unfunded obligations in three ways:
- We are slowing down hiring of UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors & specialists throughout the state.
- Statewide programs are developing additional cuts to already reduced budgets.
- UC ANR Research and Extension Centers (RECs) are reducing the subsidy that has been provided for research projects at the RECs.
Our priority during this process is to keep UCCE advisors in the field and minimize harm to program delivery. We are fortunate that recent work on administrative efficiencies has provided some savings that we can utilize for our programs and UCCE mission.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The Legislature is still working out the details of the state budget, which is due June 15, but UC is poised to get a major funding boost that will help enroll thousands of additional state students and eliminate the need for tuition increases in the coming school year. Despite the additional funding for the university, ANR will still take a budget cut. At this point, we still do not know how much our actual cuts will be, but anticipate we will have to cover approximately $5 million in unfunded obligations.
We are managing these cuts in three ways:
- We are slowing down hiring of UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists throughout the state.
- Statewide programs are developing additional cuts to already reduced budgets.
- UC ANR Research and Extension Centers are reducing the subsidy that has been provided for research projects at the RECs.
ANR leadership will share additional updates when they find out more.
In addition, a video response to the audit report for UC employees has been issued by Board of Regents Chair Monica Lozano and may be viewed here.
For updated information and UC responses to the audit, please visit the UCOP news page./span>