By Jack Payne
– We’ve been busy pursuing public support for the scientific search for solutions to the challenges Florida fruit and vegetable growers face. One reason for our success is that lawmakers can see that you have skin in the game.
We’re working on a mechanically harvested tomato, better tasting strawberries, protection for avocado trees against the redbay ambrosia beetle, and so much more at 13 research centers across the state. We’re everywhere that FFVA is.
Whether it’s the citrus box tax, a professorship endowed by a tomato grower, or farmers all over the state lending valuable acreage to UF/IFAS for research, Florida agriculture puts up substantial private money for discovery and innovation.
When it comes to a legislative audience, we’re not nearly as effective as you are in carrying the message of the importance of state funding for agricultural research. That’s why we call on your help during the legislative session each year. 2016 is no exception.
This session is a crucial one. We’re pursuing funding for more faculty to expand and accelerate our search for solutions to your challenges.
Timing is everything. We had incredible momentum coming into this session. Last year, with the support of FFVA and others, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences got state money to hire dozens of new faculty.
We always bring in top talent, but our recruiting hand is strengthened this year by:
- A new president who’s demonstrated a welcome devotion to the land-grant mission;
- The aforementioned state funding for IFAS research and Extension faculty;
- New university preeminence resources – state funding to raise UF’s national stature and impact – going to IFAS work on plant genetics, food systems, informatics and more;
- Recently upgraded computing that gives us the most powerful supercomputer in Florida and third-fastest university supercomputer in the nation;
- A multimillion dollar injection of building and lab improvements in progress in Lake Alfred, Wimauma, Immokalee and elsewhere.
Because we’re such a magnet for talent, you can be sure we’ll bring on the very best if we get the resources to do so.
That’s where you come in. We need your support to educate lawmakers about the value of investment in agricultural research and Extension. Let’s continue to work together to ensure a bright future for Florida agriculture.
Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.