Congratulations to our graduates and the faculty and families who provided support along the way! Nancy Deringer and I had fun distributing diploma jackets while many CAHNRS faculty hooded doctoral students or cheered on the graduates. The energy of commencement is infectious, only dampened by the gravity of awarding of posthumous degrees. With the exception of reunion weekend, Pullman will feel empty for the next few months.
I am in Washington, D.C., again for a climate conference. I hope to bring back ideas for how CAHNRS can benefit from the climate change funding opportunities that are anticipated in what may otherwise be a year of flat funding for most federal programs. The conference is well attended by USDA Agricultural Research Service leadership, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture program leaders, many from non-government organizations and the private sector, and key leaders from around the world. The land-grant institutions are noticeably absent, with the exception of three Ag Experiment Station directors, me, two directors of the Ag Experiment Station regions, and a couple of faculty from a Midwest land grant.
I sat in on a presentation by Cotton Incorporated, one of the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design & Textiles’ key partners, about their regenerative agriculture efforts. I learned that 58 of the top 100 food companies have made a commitment to source products from farms using regenerative agriculture practices. I was the only person to attend a screening of a new film by Peter Byck on the use of adaptive multi-paddock grazing practices to build soil carbon. Colleagues I have worked with closely in my academic life were featured throughout the movie. I particularly enjoyed a speaker from Wageningen who spoke about the need for context specificity in innovation and employing resiliency, sufficiency, and efficiency as key design principles.
To date, only 2% of USDA funding to address climate change has supported enteric methane research, yet at the current rate of consumer eating patterns, enteric methane production will increase by 45% over the next 30 years. During the conference, I have run into former students who did not continue in academia post-graduate school, as well as nongovernmental organization and private sector colleagues from across the U.S. Admittedly, it has been a bit strange seeing many I worked with closely years ago when studying enteric methane production and grazing strategies to reduce environmental impact. Even stranger is learning of the amount of funding devoted to developing and implementing practices to achieve the research and Extension objectives of my program in what seems like a different lifetime. Some things do change.
I ducked out of the conference sessions to participate in a Growth and Visioning Task Force meeting and a standing meeting with chairs and directors. The Growth and Visioning Task Force is tying up ideas before handing them over to program units to build out over the summer and early fall. During the fall, we will gather feedback from stakeholders and partners to help us refine CAHNRS’ programmatic vision. We are finalizing budget reduction plans and communicating back to units about the proposals submitted. It’s been a difficult exercise for units already feeling short on resources and personnel.
I am off to a long weekend for a little R&R and hoping it comes with sun and warmer temperatures. Wishing everyone a bit of downtime now that the semester is over.