Monday, November 6, 2017

Reflections from the USDA-NIFA listening session in Sacramento

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is accepting stakeholder input so it can prioritize science emphasis areas, identity program gaps and eliminate unneeded programs. NIFA is looking for ideas from all of their stakeholders and a few of us gathered in Sacramento to talk about Western needs. 

The following things resonated with me as I watched colleagues from a variety of disciplines and organizations speak.  

Colleagues emphasized the uniqueness of the Western United States. We heard them talk about our climates and the things that are problematic because of those climates like drought, fire and invasive species. They brought up unique needs of our residents who work on our farms and live in our cities.

Colleagues emphasized developing interdisciplinary programs. We talked about the need to fund programs that span food production to consumption. They encouraged NIFA to integrate existing programs and to fund work in policy.

Colleagues emphasized the need to protect our food supply. Pests were mentioned consistently as well as food safety, food waste, nutrition and protecting farm workers.   

Many of the things that were said align with the goals of the Western Integrated Pest Management Center but I feel like Westerners have more to say.

Now would be a good time to talk to NIFA about specialty crops and our experiences with the programs that NIFA has designed around those crops. Now would be a good time to talk about the interface between urban centers, natural areas and farms and the challenges and opportunities that these intersections bring. And, now would be a good time for commodity commissions to dust off the priorities in their pest management strategic plans and highlight unique needs. Westerners could weigh in on how NIFA programming impacts our daily lives while discussing the challenges we face in funding the work we want to do, especially as we lose more colleagues to retirement.

You can see what was said word-for-word in the Kansas, Georgia, and California sessions and submit a written comment at I think it is well worth your time because they are truly listening.

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