As a finalist in the hiring process for my new position here at UC ANR, I was asked to write a five-page vision statement for the Division, something that would address the challenges as well as potential opportunities. Now that I am your vice president, I would like to share that vision with the ANR community, to start some discussions about our future.
In the vision statement, I identified three major challenges we must work on together but, as is my normal preference, chose to focus more on opportunities for ANR. I highlighted how some existing initiatives might be expanded and provided ideas for new opportunities. To develop this vision statement, I drew from my 25-plus years of experience working on agriculture, natural resources, sustainability and economic development in rural communities, most recently as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development director for California. While I hope that you'll find these ideas innovative and of value to your efforts, they will undoubtedly evolve as I learn more about ANR and become more familiar with all the great work you are already doing.
As you'll see in the statement (below), I'm very big on collaborations and how they might help you do your job. One of my main jobs is to get you resources – funding, partners and visibility. I hope that you will read my vision statement with an eye toward how I can best do that. If you see something that intrigues you, or you are aware of an innovative partnership we already have, let me know about it. I am very excited to be here and be part of your team!
Vision Statement for UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Glenda Humiston, Ph.D.
(submitted in April 2015 as part of the recruitment and hiring process for VP ANR)
Farmers, ranchers and natural resource managers have relied upon cutting‐edge research and new technologies, disseminated through Cooperative Extension, from the University of California's (UC) Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) for the past century. With ANR's help, producers have increased yields, improved water-use efficiency, reduced pesticide loads, made food safer, become more sustainable and expanded export markets. California communities and the economy have benefitted from successful new industries and sustainable ecosystems.
For California to thrive, all of its natural resources – from protected wilderness areas to intensively cultivated farms – must be fully valued to reflect the ecosystem services they provide for today's needs as well as those of future generations. Rural communities need options for ways to deal with the challenges of aging population, geographic isolation and entrenched dependency on our natural resources, while our urban citizens need to be more mindful of how dependent we all are on our working landscapes and to embrace opportunities to collaborate with the rural sector.
California agriculture faces many challenges: drought, an aging farmer population, pest infestations, global competition, climate change, obstacles to access to land and water resources, complex environmental regulations, and reduced access to skilled workers. At the same time, consumers in the nation's leading food-producing state are not eating enough healthy food – resulting in food insecurity for the one out of six Californians who live in poverty. Chronic health problems associated with obesity and malnutrition increase health care expenditures and also represent lost market opportunities for California growers of fruits, vegetables and other healthy food products.
ANR worked closely with internal and external stakeholders in 2009 to develop a strategic vision that would guide its research and extension efforts into the 21st century. That mission statement and strategic plan align well with the mission of the entire UC system and offer a strong platform from which to address the challenges and opportunities facing California:
UC ANR envisions a thriving California in 2025 where healthy people and communities, healthy food systems and healthy environments are strengthened by a close partnership between the University of California and its research and extension programs, and the people of the state. The University remains connected and committed to the people of California, who enjoy a high quality of life, a healthy environment, and economic success in a global economy.
Achievement of that vision will require that ANR leverage its assets with a wide array of external partners, projects and resources and that ANR increase public awareness of the contribution agricultural and natural resources provide to California's well-being. There is no “one size fits all” approach; each region or sector needs tools and strategies to meet their particular goals and needs. As California seeks accord among diverse interests and competing goals, ANR must provide knowledge to improve the quality of decisions as well as leadership to help communities find consensus on difficult issues.
As ANR works to support the development of solutions to these issues, it also must deal with some internal challenges. Chief among those is the availability of adequate resources to do the job. As an example, federal funding of research from USDA declined 16 percent from 2005 to 2012 and lags behind other government-supported research, prompting the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to issue statements on the essential nature of agricultural research to the nation and to further call for a $700 million annual increase in federal funding to prepare U.S. agriculture to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Reductions in state and local budgets have also strained the ability of research centers, Cooperative Extension and campus programs to meet the growing demands placed upon them.
The past decade of cuts must be turned around by developing new resources. To do this, the leadership of ANR should collaborate closely with the various UC funds development and external relations offices. By identifying where external stakeholders might form new and/or deeper connections with – and get excited about – specific UC programs, ANR could support development of new and/or expanded funding sources. For example, County Supervisors control much of the funding that local UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices rely upon; ANR, and other UC resources, could help show the Return on Investment that UCCE provides to a county. Similarly, industry sectors and corporate interests that might donate a moderate sum could be convinced to increase that amount for endowed chairs – academic, research centers or Cooperative Extension – because they would feel it more permanent and/or would want to honor something by securing naming rights. Matching programs, planned giving and new interdisciplinary approaches all have potential to increase giving if done in a strategic and collaborative manner.
Another opportunity would be to provide more administrative support for grant writing and proposal development at every level. Have a central entity coordinate project ideas with multiple, diverse funding sources and facilitate UC collaborations with partners. This would greatly reduce the need for applicants to talk to multiple offices in order to determine where a particular project might fit. Such an entity could review federal, state, local and private funding options to ensure that researchers and Cooperative Extension personnel were made aware of likely sources in a timely manner and receive support to improve their submissions. On a much larger scale, USDA just called for two new national multidisciplinary agricultural research institutes – one on nanocellulosics and the other on biomanufacturing/bioproducts research – and proposed $80 million in the FY2016 budget to fund them. Competition to host these will be fierce; a coordinated proposal from California that links multiple campuses with relevant public and private sector partners will be much more competitive against other states and institutions.
A second key challenge for ANR and all academic institutions is the level of scientific illiteracy among our population, coupled more recently with a growing lack of trust in science. This leads to dubious policy decisions, reduced investments in research and great damage to people, ecosystems and the economy. Better communication between scientists and the general public is desperately needed. Thanks to the powerful partnership between UC campuses and UCCE, as well as the Research Extension Centers (REC), 4-H, Master Gardeners and other allied institutions, ANR can and should facilitate materials, messages and venues to help address this increasingly dangerous state of affairs. Although many of the ANR programs named above are known by the people and organizations that directly utilize their services, the vast majority of the population and many decision makers remain unaware of them. Facilitating the expanded use of science-based information to solve current problems and engaging the general public in carrying out that activity will help to both change how the lay public views science and increase their understanding of scientific principles.
A third challenge is the need for a clear understanding and agreement among all the component pieces of ANR as to roles, responsibilities, processes and expectations. Changes have occurred in both UC and ANR leadership in the past several years; concurrently, society at large has experienced new thinking in terms of best practices for management, outreach, communication, leveraging partnerships and how organizations should function. Some within ANR feel that these changes have contributed to a much-improved system, while others are frustrated; external partners appear to have similarly mixed opinions. Moving forward, it is imperative that all ANR stakeholders – both internal and external – have a clear sense of the ANR mission, how its various elements serve that vision and how to optimize their engagements with each other.
ANR has many opportunities to enhance how it serves its mission, supports the array of people and programs that it administers, and expands its influence. Capitalization on those opportunities will require some new and, perhaps, innovative collaborations – possibly with what might seem to be unlikely allies. In some cases the partnership may involve a single UC institution; however, in most cases, connecting multiple institutions and interdisciplinary resources will prove much more powerful. The following examples feature partnerships that could be replicated, as well as some new opportunities to pursue. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a taste to whet the appetite.
The Shared Value Initiative (SVI) defines a new role for business in society that goes beyond traditional models of corporate social responsibility. Rather than focusing on mitigating harm in the company's existing operations, shared value strategies engage the scale and innovation of companies to advance social progress. At the same time, shared value offers new ways for other societal actors to engage with corporations in delivering social impact. This summer SVI will be rolling out special resources for academic institutions – a fast-growing segment of shared value. Many programs and projects associated with ANR are ripe for such collaborations.
EXAMPLE: UC Davis & Mars, Inc.
The Innovation Institute for Food and Health was launched in September 2014, supported by a pledge of $40 million from Mars and $20 million from UC Davis over 10 years. The institute will advance new discoveries in sustainable food, agriculture and health, not just in the laboratory but at all steps along the way to commercial use.
OPPORTUNITY: Central Valley AgPLUS
Food and beverage processing is California's third-largest manufacturing sector. Its 3,421 food manufacturing firms is the largest number in the nation and in 2012 accounted for $82 billion of value added, 760,000 full and part-time jobs and a total direct/indirect value of $220 billion. Central Valley AgPLUS is an unprecedented effort to grow California's bio-based economy through a strategic partnership between the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State, the Center of Economic Development at Chico State, Valley Vision, Innovate NorthState, and the Central Sierra Economic Development District. In joining this collaboration, ANR would be able to greatly expand partnerships and support key initiatives in climate change, the bioeconomy and advanced manufacturing.
The University Economic Development Association (UEDA) convenes a cross-section of organizations from higher education, the private sector, and the economic development arena to explore and advance key economic development issues and build creative partnerships.
EXAMPLE: UC Merced's Blum Center for Developing Economies (BCDE) & Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority (TCEDA)
TCEDA and UC Merced's BCDE are connecting researchers and students to innovators, entrepreneurs and makers throughout Central California to apply STEM skills and creativity to solve real-world challenges via the InnovationLab. The lab offers 24/7 space and access to tools like 3-D printers, gaming and application-development equipment, an electronics lab, wood shop, computer and social media technology and conferencing capability for real-time interactions with the UC campus.
OPPORTUNITY: Cal Poly Pomona's Entrepreneur Program is a cooperative project between their Colleges of Business, Engineering and Science to allow student teams to design, produce and market a quality product to the public. They want to incorporate agricultural products into this project; UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences would be a natural partner for that.
Today, much technology development and application occurs in the context of synergistic regional clusters of firms, trade associations, educational institutions, private labs, and regional economic development organizations. Such alliances offer national labs and universities the ability to engage fully with the regional economies in which they are located; however, a lack of consistent engagement with regional technology clusters has limited research's overall contributions to U.S. economic growth. ANR leadership should encourage development of collaboratives like Seed Central for additional crops and industry sectors.
EXAMPLE: UC Davis & Seed Central
Established in 2010, Seed Central is an initiative of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest, joined by a growing number of companies and organizations in the global seed and food industry. Some 100 seed and seed-related companies are located near UC Davis and benefit greatly from its proximity, but the influence of UC Davis extends throughout the USA and far beyond as a world leader in seed, plant and agricultural sciences. Seed Central facilitates communication & research collaboration between the seed industry and UC Davis in order to bring science more quickly to market.
OPPORTUNITY: Join the Memorandum of Understanding between USDA Agricultural Research Service, USDA Rural Development and US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs to support technology transfer and commercialization of research from USDA and DOE labs into commercial products benefiting California and global agriculture. Related initiatives include the Steinbeck Innovation Cluster and the California Agricultural Technology Roundtable. ANR could facilitate the participation of UC research in cooperative ventures with new partners.
Foundations and other philanthropic organizations not only fund but are increasingly engaged in community development initiatives. One example is the California Endowment's “Building Healthy Communities” (BHC) Initiative. BHC projects improve access to food, health care, land use, education, small business development and community leadership. Chosen sites have exhibited poor health outcomes but have the potential to inspire policy changes that would create a healthier environment for all Californians. UCCE, Master Gardeners and 4-H programs can offer much to ensure success of such initiatives while ANR researchers could support analysis of results and offer innovations in program delivery and extension to additional sites.
Similarly, support from the Bank of America to the UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools allowed an important policy document to be produced: “Room to Grow: How California Agriculture Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” While the policy recommendations in this report have found traction with key organizations and policymakers, ANR involvement and resources might have further improved content and facilitated quicker implementation. Going forward, ANR should now be coordinating much more closely with the new USDA Climate Sub-Hub in Davis. This hub will collect and analyze regional data and interpret climate change forecasts to support hazard and adaptation planning for agriculture and resource management.
The above examples highlight how the research, Cooperative Extension activities and other resources generated by ANR are vital to California's triple-bottom-line: people, planet and prosperity. As the product of three outstanding land-grant universities, a long-time participant with 4-H programs, and a frequent partner with UC's Cooperative Extension on a wide array of projects throughout the state, I understand the crucial role ANR can play in solving many of the key issues of our age. This is a mission that I deeply embrace on a personal and professional level.
I have long advocated for, helped produce and facilitated the use of science-based information to develop solutions; this includes a strong track record of procuring resources from both public and private sources. My past performance of innovative collaborations – particularly my ability to pull together unlikely allies – has allowed me to develop policy and implement programs on issues that many considered unmanageable. An extensive professional network connects me to decision makers in the public, corporate, and philanthropic arenas, enabling me to positively influence key initiatives, seek informed input, and move issues forward. My ability to communicate complex ideas to diverse audiences keeps me in frequent demand to serve as a public speaker and in advisory roles for a variety of organizations.
As an executive I have improved program efficiency and increased productivity while concurrently raising employee morale and earning kudos from clients and partners. My colleagues consider me to be a thought leader, a change agent and a strong manager who is able to organize diverse stakeholders, help them to find common ground and ensure that identified solutions get implemented. I look forward to discussing with you how these skills might best serve both ANR and UC, as well as the needs of California.
 "The distinctive mission of the University is to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. That obligation, more specifically, includes undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, research, and other kinds of public service, which are shaped and bounded by the central pervasive mission of discovering and advancing knowledge." Accessed 03/30/15 at http://www.ucop.edu/uc-mission/index.html
 Pursuing a Unifying Message Elevating Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Research as a National Priority November 7, 2014, http://188.8.131.52/~swcs/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/FINAL-Unifying-Report.pdf
 Sexton, Richard J., Medellín-Azuara, Josué and Saitone, Tina L., “The Economic Impact of Food and Beverage Processing in California and Its Cities and Counties”, A Report Prepared for the California League of Food Processors, January 2015
 Scott Andes, Mark Muro, and Matthew Stepp, Going Local: Connecting the National Labs to their Regions for Innovation and Growth, Brookings, September 2014, http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/09/10-national-labs-andes-muro-stepp
 Elkind, E., Hecht, S., and Horowitz C., “Room to Grow: How California Agriculture Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, UC Berkeley School of Law's Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE), March 2010, http://legal-planet.org/2010/03/03/white-paper-released-today-on-how-farmers-and-ranchers-can-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions/
 On February 5, 2014, USDA announced the establishment of seven Regional Climate Hubs in support of the President's Climate Action Plan: www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2014/02/0016.xml
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