- Author: Brenda Dawson
An article by Ching Lee in today's Ag Alert focused on the effects of budget cuts on agricultural student programs at California universities. "Budget cuts have had a profound effect on all areas of the campus," Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, told the reporter. She explained the college faces challenges keeping agricultural production facilities, instructional equipment and technologies updated to deliver hands-on education — even though the office has seen student applications increase by 70–80 percent.
Tom Baldwin, dean of UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, also commented on the challenges of serving students in the face of diminishing resources, saying the university is "moving heaven and earth" to do so.
The cuts are being felt at on-campus farms as well. Raoul Adamchak, of the UC Davis Student Farm, explained that the market garden generates its own income and provides a lesson to students on self-sustaining businesses. "Things cost money, and these are part of the expenses of farming, so it has to be factored in. They have to make decisions based on the cost of things and the returns," he said.
Peach association to major retailer: Buy U.S.-grown
Christine Souza, Ag Alert
The California Canning Peach Association has asked Target to consider California fruit for its Market Pantry-brand canned peaches, which are currently a product of China. Wal-Mart carries a comparable product made from California cling peaches, with a lower retail price.
Reporter Christine Souza sought expert commentary from Roberta Cook, UC Cooperative Extension marketing specialist at the Davis campus, on the current market for California cling peaches. "When you are talking about processed items, if another country can produce it a lot cheaper than you, then you will be vulnerable to competition. And consumer preferences have moved towards fresh. So [California cling-peach businesses] are hit by both factors," she told the reporter.
Related ANR News Blog post: Chinese farmers take a bite out of the California cling-peach market
College agriculture programs will likely rely increasingly on public and private partnerships, UC ANR vice president Dan Dooley told the Los Angeles Times for an article on funding cuts to the state's preeminent agricultural education programs.
The article, which appears on the front page of the Times' website today, focused on Cal Poly Pomona, Fresno State and UC ag programs. State support for agricultural and natural resources at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Riverside has dropped 15 to 20 percent in the last three years. At UC ANR, Dooley said, dozens of administrative and support positions have been eliminated, research has been cut, and some departments within colleges have been eliminated or consolidated.
Dooley expressed concern about the repercussions of reduced public investment in agricultural research and education.
"There's an enormous relationship between public investment in agricultural research and farm productivity," Dooley was quoted. "If we're going to play a significant role in meeting worldwide demand, including adjusting to climate change, we're going to have to enhance productivity.... California has always been the leader."
Times reporter Carla Rivera wrote that some of the state's ag schools are looking for creative ways to boost their budgets. At Fresno State and Cal Poly, ag departments are expanding beef, pork and wine sales to the public.
Fresno State is looking into growing its own animal feed to cut costs. The Pomona campus hosts a pumpkin festival, sells produce at local farmers markets and in the school's farm store, and is investing in higher quality horses, which are auctioned online for as much as $25,000. Cal Poly is also considering opening a petting zoo.
The Redding Record Searchlight ran a story last week introducing Shasta County residents to their new UC Cooperative Extension director, Larry Forero. Forero replaces Gary Nakamura, who retired in June after 27 years as a forestry specialist - the last four he also served as county director.
The story noted that Forero, 50, has been the UCCE livestock/natural resources advisor in Shasta County for 20 years and will continue in that role in addition to his county director duties. Forero grew up in Weaverville and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Chico State University, a master's degree in range science from Colorado State University and a doctorate in wildland resource science from UC Berkeley.
Forero told reporter Laura Christman that he isn't planning big changes for the local Cooperative Extension service. He expects his biggest challenge to be the tough economic times.
"Like every government entity at this instant, we are trying to figure out what the state budget is and how that is going to play back out in the counties," Forero was quoted in the story.
There are three advisers — livestock/natural resources, nutrition/family/consumer science and crop science — serving Shasta and Trinity counties. Nakamura's forestry specialist position is not expected to be refilled.
With a smaller staff, Cooperative Extension has had to change its approach, Forero said.
"We are doing a lot of webinars and online workshops to compensate for reduced support for face-to-face workshops and field meetings," he was quoted.
Agriculture and extension programs at land-grant universities around the nation are feeling the impact of university budget cuts, according to an Associated Press story that was picked up by several major newspapers.
“We’re mortgaging our future with some of these cuts,” the story quoted Ian Maw, vice president for food, agriculture and natural resources at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
The story bore a Minneapolis dateline and began with the plight of the University of Minnesota Extension program.
"People may not see the impact tomorrow but they will see long-term that not investing now means we’ll have more problems in the future,” said Beverly Durgan, dean of the University of Minnesota Extension program.
Other universities covered included:
- University of Georgia, where the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences recently decided to lay off 18 workers and sell a farm
- Iowa State University, where the extension program is planning for a 6 percent reduction in state funding
- Pennsylvania State University, where extension expects a cut between $5.5 million an $8 million.
“Final decisions haven’t been made but the reality is with each reduction we’re going to have to decide what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do,” Dooley was quoted.
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors expressed some concerns on Tuesday about plans to reorganize the UC Cooperative Extension service on a regional basis, reported the Calaveras Enterprise. The board took no action, but the issue is expected to be brought forward for a vote in June.
Under the plan, UC Cooperative Extension in Calaveras, El Dorado and Amador counties would be consolidated. Satellite offices would be maintained in each county and the main office located in the El Dorado County community of Placerville.
“The UC system has been hammered with budget cuts, we know you’re getting hammered with budget cuts and we’re looking at ways to keep the programs that we have,” the director of ANR Strategic Advocacy and UC-County Partnerships Don Klingborg told the board. By making administration more efficient, the consolidation could save each county about 10 percent of their contribution to the program.
Supervisor Steve Wilensky took issue with the Placerville location, the newspaper reported.
“I’m not interested in an unequal partnership,” Wilensky was quoted.
The board was also concerned with the possible job loss for clerical staff.