If you've taken a Southwest flight in February, perhaps you read the article about Sierra, a dog that helped, repeatedly, detect cancer in her person. If you've seen the movie, “A Dog's Journey”, you are familiar with the incredible sense of smell that dogs possess and how it can be tuned for specific purposes. The article went on to discuss the use of electronic nose technology, or e-noses, for this same purpose. I had the chance to work with a 32-sensor e-nose as a graduate student at the University of Florida. The Food Science and Human Nutrition Department had the equipment and was testing it for off-flavors in orange juice and other foods. At the time, 20+ years ago, the technology was under development though some food and beverage companies were using the technology for quality control of ingredients. I recall reading an article in the Wall Street Journal touting that the e-nose technology would someday be used in telemedicine and even as part of home security systems because each human has a characteristic odor. Although I did purchase a portable e-nose for my research program while in Iowa, I was never able to develop the algorithm to accurately predict nuisance odors from farms. I attributed this to site-specificity of odors, poor ability by the e-nose sensors to detect sulfur-containing compounds, humidity interference, and other unidentified shortcomings of the technology. I am unconvinced that we are near an application where an instrument is a suitable surrogate for an animal or insect with highly developed olfactory senses. With that said, my own pooches seem to use their gift only for evil, digging up bulbs I planted while they weren't looking and such.
Fun fact: Manure odor is made up of well over 200 compounds, many of which are below a threshold detectable by humans. However, some of the prominent odor components that are offensive to most humans, are the very compounds that attract flies to fresh manure. Who knows when that information will come in handy?
I had a chance to read the most recent e-newsletter from the Citrus Research Board. The recap of the 2020 UCR Citrus Day talked about not only the honoring of Beth Grafton-Cardwell for all the great work that she has done over her impressive career, but also mentioned the afternoon sessions at the event that highlighted some of the work underway to use dogs to sniff out HLB and other diseases. One of the things we've heard from the UC/UC ANR team working with the dogs is that the dogs need to be in constant ‘training' so that they are exposed to the scent of the disease but also challenged in clean orchards.
I read a summary of the President's budget proposal. While USDA NIFA funding has a proposed increase, overall funding for research is down. This is troubling, to say the least, particularly given the societal challenges that need strong science to develop solutions. The bright spot is that AI and machine learning research have proposed increases across multiple agencies. Surely the work with dogs and e-noses represents competitive funding opportunities. I hope researchers are crafting their rationale statements to be ready when the requests for proposals come out. I wonder if there is a Multistate Research Project somewhere in the system for this topic.
Off to the first day of the World Ag Expo. Who knows what interesting things will be on display this year!
If someone had told me even ten years ago that I would be watching a Governor's budget release as closely as I did on Friday, I would have thought they were crazy. But, that's precisely what I did, in between other meetings. I wasn't alone, either. The anticipation of waiting to see how our budget turns out for this upcoming fiscal year caused a number of us in ANR to listen to the unveiling of the budget while we multitasked, as were I suspect many across the UC system. You just never know where you will end up and how that changes your day-to-day work. So far, there seems to be some recognition that you can't indefinitely continue to do the same with less.
Over the weekend, Pam forwarded a Tweet from Camille von Kaenel (@conka) that said, “From the journalist perspective, extension advisors are golden sources for local environment, agriculture, and climate change articles.” Thanks, Camille! And, thanks to all who make that statement real! Let's hope many feel as Camille does, and we see even further support for our budget that allows for program expansion!
I met with the University Committee on Research and Policy (UCORP) on Monday, hoping to enhance their understanding of UC ANR and recognition that we can all achieve more by working collaboratively and pooling resources. The call was very positive, and I believe the members of UCORP would like to help their campuses better understand how they can work with UC ANR and benefit from that relationship. We talked about campuses perhaps ‘adopting a UCCE office' as a way of building a relationship, sort of Sister Cities. At least a couple of the members liked that concept, so perhaps, if there are UCCE offices also interested, the idea may grow into a pilot in a few locations.
The Peer Review Committee and the Ad Hoc Committees met Monday to review the logistics of their 2020 assignment. Both Pam Tice and Linda Manton didn't miss a beat in the preparations to serve as support and chair, respectively, despite a few years passing since they were full-time in UC ANR.
I am looking forward to attending a few of the Water Program Team webinars on California Water Challenges. I would anticipate strong attendance given that we seem to be a bit short of rain this year (compared to 2019). I love the idea of regular webinars as a means of providing education and conversation! Thanks to the Water Program Team for taking leadership on this effort. Take a look at the Learning and Development page for more information on this series and other opportunities.
The UC-CORO leadership program 2020 cohort starts this week. Although I nominated a few individuals for the program, I am uncertain who from UC ANR is participating this year. I will have a chance to meet with the Northern cohort on Tuesday which will alleviate the mystery for that group, but I will have to wait for an update about the Southern cohort group. It is always fun to hear from participants how they benefited from the program and what project their cohort took on during the program. I will have to wait and see.
We wrap up the 5-location Information Sessions on Friday of this week, with 3 of those five sessions taking place the last portion of the week. It has been nice to get out and see those whom I don't often get a chance to see. Also, there have been some new folks that I hadn't met in person yet. For the summer, these five sessions took the place of county office and REC visits. Once summer ends, I will have to assess my schedule. However, I welcome any invitations to come out to your area and meet with the local team. Visits can be as long or short as the hosts' desire and be anything from an informal conversation around a table to an action-packed agenda with tight timelines. For me, the emphasis is on the connection and not the format.
Back in the office, I'm working to diversify our funding sources and build resiliency against the uncertainty of state and federal funding sources. The goals are to 1) develop capacity throughout the state, reducing the reality of too much work with too few people, and 2) provide more resources to do the work. I'm not alone if the effort; a number of us are working towards these goals, not for our individual programs but the broader UC ANR. The strategy is to identify opportunities for specific programs and secure additional resources. By so doing, the tide rises to lift all boats. Some examples include:
- Securing a $500,000 gift to expand the CalNat program, with a goal of building on that gift for a long-term sustained expansion of the program;
- Secured funding of $500,000 that was matched by the UC President's Office to provide the UC Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection, held by Georgios Vidalakis;
- Received $19M in state funding for structural improvements at 3 RECs plus Elkus Ranch, an amount that far exceeds all funds received previously for this purpose;
- Developed partnership agreements to co-fund 6 CE Advisor position and 2 CE Specialist positions. Partners included a state agency (2 positions), 2 UC campuses, one commodity group (2 positions), and two counties. An agreement is under review by a third county for a 7th CE Advisor position. Additional conversations with new partners are in various stages;
- Established 10 Community Education Specialist position, funded by CDFA, to work in Climate Smart Agriculture by leveraging our academic network;
- Worked with one County government officials to secure funding for FY18/19 and increase it in FY19/20, following three consecutive years without funding (other than space);
- Worked with one County government office to prevent removal of funding proposed as a result of a significant structural deficit in the County;
- Implemented new annual giving strategies, resulting in a total revenue increase of in FY18/19, compared to FY17/18;
- Establishment of funding campaigns to stabilize funding for Community Education Specialist positions in both 4-H and Master Gardener programs.
None of these successes happened overnight. Each required numerous conversations with donors or partners to determine common goals and establish a path forward. Following, continued maintenance of the relationship remains essential, requiring continuous time and effort.
The above accomplishments contribute to different 'slices' of our funding sources pie, making it perhaps appear as less significant accomplishments than say a $10M donation. Some of the above achievements represent Competitive Grants and Extramural Contracts, while others increase the County funds slice of the pie, and yet other strategies add to the Endowment Income slice. But that's part of the plan – to garner support for the breadth of work across UC ANR.
While not everyone feels a direct benefit from the efforts yet, over time everyone wins, even if it is in some small way (averting a funding crisis, maintenance of program support despite a flat state budget, one more person in the office delivering a program, etc.). No question that a $10M donation to a specific program or building fund is great, but I'm just as happy to spread the wealth a bit more even if it takes time for everyone to feel the victory. Like any condition change, this, too takes time.
A few months ago I was surprised when we saw no increase in our state funding because campuses did see increases. Yes, I knew it was possible because there was no conversation about increasing the OP budget and, after all, we are a line item in the OP budget. Nevertheless, I remained optimistic. It didn't materialize; the state said 'no' to an increase in the OP budget and did not call out UC ANR for any special augmentation. But that wasn't the end of the effort. Next came several months of negotiations with OP to find additional support for UC ANR that reflected what the UCSF Corridor model would have provided had OP not been prohibited from receiving an increase. We just learned that we will see a one-time increase, but not the full model provision. That's progress, and we'll take it!
Key to my responsibilities is thinking forward about what all of this means for UC ANR. What impact does our funding model have on the size of our programs, our funding sources, what we deliver, what capacity we have if we change nothing, and what opportunities exist to attract resources that enhance our position? I work through the 'what if' and then align scenarios with goals and key strategies. There isn't a single path but rather numerous paths that lead to the intended outcome. No crystal ball shows me what's ahead, what external forces will come into play at any given time, and there is error associated with the scenario projections. Thus, the failure to achieve the intended outcome is possible. But the forecast is necessary for managing what the future holds.
Often, I look back to better see forward. Funding history is the first place to start. Historically, federal funding for Cooperative Extension has declined. While that funding has been stable for the last decade, flat funding for Cooperative Extension since 2009 means an annual shortfall equivalent to the increased costs for peoples, supplies, and operations.
State funding in 2017 for higher education across the U.S., remained below the pre-2008 levels. California funding was closer to pre-2008 levels than many/most states. The recent increase to the campuses may put the state funding on par with pre-2008 funding amounts. Nonetheless, it would be unwise to count on state funds to keep up with the pace of increased costs, much less regain the previous position.
In theory, the UCOP portion of the ANR budget is calculated using the “UCSF Corridor” model, and the source of funds continues to be the campus assessment. The corridor model has not yet been provided to UC ANR, in part because the OP budget remained flat in FY18/19 and now again in FY19/20 (no increase through campus assessment). Fortunately, for FY19/20, we will receive approximately 2/3 of what the UCSF Corridor model would have provided.
Once implemented, the UCSF Corridor model means that “in years where the University receives increased funding from the State, ANR would receive its "normal share" of the first 2% increase and then one-half of its normal share above 2%. In years in which the University receives budget reductions from the State, ANR would receive a reduction equivalent to its normal share of the first 1% and then 25% of its normal share above 1%. 'Normal share' is based on the percentage increase being allocated to the campuses for their base budget adjustment.” Glenda points out in a May 2016 post, “The bottom line, I believe, is that we now have a budget model that reduces uncertainty and allows us to plan and forecast into the future more effectively."
In my role, it is imperative that I think forward and calculate what the UCSF Corridor model means to UC ANR resources. While the uncertainty is reduced, it is replaced with predictable shortfall because, like this year, our increase is below that of the campuses yet we have academic and staff costs that keep up with the campus costs. Furthermore, even if we receive the full state increase, as campuses do, we could very well fall short of cost increases in any given year; this is not uncommon.
Clearly, state and federal funds do not offer a path for real growth. Diversifying our funding sources, using many strategies and ways is key to maintenance and growth. I don't share this with a defeatist attitude. If we know what we have ahead of us and prepare by laying the groundwork, we are more resilient to whatever we face. And, if circumstances are better than projected, we have a buffer! I will share a bit more about our diversified funding efforts in an upcoming post. This one is getting long.
The takeaway message is that we do have a lot of things going for us in getting ready for the future. Not the least of which is the caliber of our current programs and a long history of programmatic accomplishments. Rather than waiting to see what comes, we are constantly looking out 5 to 10 years, when making decisions to determine how that decision interacts with anticipated external factors and a projected funding reality. The growing list of tiny victories, in aggregate, make great strides towards ensuring that those who wish to be here 20, 30 years from now have the same or enhanced opportunities.
We had a good conversation during Tuesday's Academic Assembly Council. There was a long list of topics, but we were able to work through the list in the 2 hours we had. Honestly, we could have spent far more time on issues such as expectations of the different academic ranks, future hiring of academics, the importance and challenge of everyone hearing the same message across a large, dispersed organization, the merit and promotion process and time it takes to conduct the process each year, and feedback from across the academic assembly.
Program Council met at the Hopland REC, beginning Tuesday evening for dinner. Wednesday included an overview of the REC, a small slice of the vital work conducted there over the years, and a look at the plans, including opportunities that have resulted from the devastation of the fire. John did a great job with the presentation. We took a walking tour of the lower area of the REC which was very popular with participants. Program Council did have work to do; we spent time talking about what members saw as opportunities for the RECs.
Following Program Council, we headed to Lake County to have dinner with Rachel and Glenn. Thursday started with a good discussion in Lake County. I was surprised, in a good way, to learn that the local Tribal Health has doctors who prescribe Master Gardener classes as part of the diabetes prevention program. That's a powerful statement about the contribution of UC ANR programs to overall health and an excellent justification for working with counties to find support for our programs through Prop 63 funds that are grounded in improving mental health. We learned about how vital UC ANR programs are to a County of 65,000 people with little infrastructure and staggering statistics about the health and well-being of the County residents. UC ANR accomplishes its work through key partnerships. It was a story we had heard before, in other counties across the state.
We went on to Glenn County and learned about the great things going on there; we met a farm family that benefits from some of the work of UC ANR CE Advisors. Now we have a team of Community Educators to advance similar work. There is significant research going on in Glenn County that helps farmers and families, alike, address business and personal challenges.
During the week we learned of the Governor's new budget. UCOP remains flat. It is difficult to hear the news, given the evidence of how vital our work is to the people of California. We need to continue to share our stories, gathering more of them with more concrete impact data. While I am disappointed in the budget outcome, we are by no means defeated. Tomorrow starts another week with its own set of setbacks that don't even come close to competing with all of the successes./span>