Catching Up with CALS — September 6, 2017
Dean's Message — Food Matters
We read to learn. That much is obvious to anyone in a university community. We also read to expand our thinking about things we already know.
In this case, the subject was food and the situation was how much we take for granted our access to the world’s cheapest, safest and most abundant food supply.
I had such a moment recently reading “Simply Sustainable,” the newsletter of the Western Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education Program.
Jim Freeburn of the Western SARE professional development program was ruminating in an opinion piece about science guy Bill Nye’s goal to provide clean water, renewable electricity and internet access for all people worldwide.
Freeburn’s point: Food wasn’t even on the list because Americans simply take it for granted, like having enough air to breathe.
I agree and support the other point he wanted to make: Only a thin slice of the price consumers pay for food returns to farmers and ranchers.
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service shows that only 11.6 percent of that food dollar goes to the farmer or rancher. The other 88.4 percent goes to processing and distribution.
Some examples cited: a loaf of bread at $3.29 — only 10 cents goes to the farmer; an 8-ounce bag of potato chips also sells for $3.29 — only 16 cents goes to the farmer.
If the average U.S. consumer spends 9.6 percent of income on food, and the farmer gets only 11.6 percent of that, the farmer gets just over 1 percent of that consumer’s disposable income. As noted by Freeburn, that’s an amazingly small percentage for the great food and abundant choices we enjoy.
Agriculture has succeeded in finding ways to remain profitable even as margins shrink, putting more money into the pockets of consumers through lower food costs and processors, restaurants and grocers. More consumers need to recognize and appreciate this.
An important note here: Air quality concerns mean the college will move its annual Welcome Back Picnic indoors to the Livestock Pavilion today from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. It is an opportunity for the CALS community to enjoy a meal, meet friends and talk with students, faculty and staff.
And finally, please tune in to our GMO symposium events Sept. 18 and 19. Fred Gould of North Carolina State University will deliver two talks about genetically modified organisms, both in the food realm and as a method to control disease-bearing insects.
Cara Santa Maria, a gifted science communicator, will contribute her perspective on GMO foods as part of a program with Gould and an agricultural panel Monday, Sept. 18.
MICHAEL P. PARRELLA
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
63 was the head count for this year’s Steer-A-Year class, up from 58 in 2016. In the program’s 29 years 1,528 head have educated students, raised scholarship money and been fed for market.
Our Stories — Seeing Research and Extension with Fresh Eyes
Nelson came to UI Sept. 1, 2016, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was associate vice chancellor for research development. Coming from a land-grant university, she had seen Tennessee Extension’s programs. But this trip was an introduction to UI Extension up close and a different agriculture with different crops.
Her Idaho travels in early August took her from Bonners Ferry, south to Parma, then east to Kimberly before finishing in Sun Valley at the Idaho Milk Processors Association meeting.
In addition to stops at the McCall Outdoor Science School and other UI colleges’ outreach efforts along the way, many of the stops focused on CALS research and extension centers and UI Extension offices.
Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, established with help from the CALS and UI Extension operated Horizons project, marked one waypoint focused on economic development efforts.
“That was a really beautiful facility, and impressive to see that we have one of the premier whitewater parks in the country right here in our state,” Nelson said.
Begun nearly a decade ago, the park draws kayakers to the Payette River’s North Fork and recreational business to the scenic Long Valley.
Farther south, she took in the Idaho Hop Growers Field Day in Wilder where she met Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little and other attendees before a tour of the Parma Research and Extension Center. “Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the spicy aroma of the fresh hops,” Nelson said.
When asked about her impression of the research and extension centers, Nelson said, “There looked like there is plenty of room for improvement at many of the facilities.” she added, “Some of these centers look like they’ve been limping along on baler twine and duct tape.”
“But what was impressive was seeing what our researchers could do with the resources and assets they had,” she said. “And imagine the potential contributions if our researchers were in state-of-the-art facilities with more access to more modern technology and tools.”
She also visited the Caldwell Research and Extension Center and met with 4-H teen advocates for healthy living. That session, and another at the UI Extension Ada County office, provided her first acquaintance with the UI 4-H Youth Development program.
She met with students from Ireland and Spain, who worked from Caldwell during the summer to develop an irrigated pollinator garden for a vintner.
“The breadth of things they were exploring and working on, and how their experiences from an international perspective were expressed, was amazing,” she said.
A nearby J.R. Simplot Co. French fry processing center impressed her by its scale, its adaptation of modern technology, and by its importance to the economy and education.
“What struck me there was thinking about education and jobs and our role at the university in training the next generation of workforce,” she said. “The industrial skillset needed from our graduating students is changing.”
“There will be fewer, but higher paying, jobs because many of the processes are automated and robotic,” she said. Graduates will need to embrace the culture of the modern workforce.
“What really struck me there was the university is going to have a critical role in providing the types of education needed for the next generation of workers at these local companies,” she said.
That same impression greeted her at the Glanbia Cheese Innovation Center near Jerome. “The types of research questions being addressed have really evolved,” she said. “It’s very striking seeing how the company interfaces with the customers to develop products.”
At the Kimberly Research and Extension Center, she tasted a sugar beet and saw research focused on insect damage to crops and other issues.
“Seeing the types of research being done in the field and innovations there was really special,” she said. “I have been fortunate to have the chance to walk out there and get my feet dirty.”
From Rodeo to Rush, International Students Explore America
A visit to campus during the run-up to the first day of classes offered another, the visitors agreed with laughs.
Mostly, what they found was that a sense of life in America is pretty similar to what they see on television.
“We have a pretty good idea of life here. When you come here and see it firsthand, it becomes less of a sitcom fantasy. ‘It’s real. It’s not a fantasyland,’ ” said Ruth Farnan, a horticulture student from University College Dublin.
For Pablo Enrique, a ticket to the Caldwell Night Rodeo became a souvenir of the trip. Spain has its bullfights and the running of the bulls but no one tries to ride them.
The Irish love their horses, Kim White said, “but not the ones that buck, the ones that make the money.”
“The ones you can bet on,” Farnan added.
A campus visit that included meetings with the Soil Stewards student club and UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden tour broadened their view of America.
“Yesterday we got to go to the fraternities and sororities, and that was really interesting,” Farnan said. We don’t have anything like that in Ireland.”
Farnan, White and Enrique were members of contingent of five students from the University College Dublin and the Public University of Navarra, Spain.
The group spent the summer based in Caldwell through a UI CALS-sponsored student exchange program organized by Jim Toomey, CALS Caldwell Business Incubator director, and International Programs Director Bob Haggerty in Moscow.
The core of the students’ experience was working with Ron Bitner to develop a pollinator landscape plan and irrigation report for Bitner Vineyard.
White and Farnan are horticulture students in Dublin. Ander Gomez, Anne Lanz and Enrique are engineering students in Navarra. Their plan developed a system to enhance pollinator habitat at the vineyard through landscape plantings and an irrigation system.
Working with the vineyard and visiting companies across southwestern Idaho gave the students a better appreciation for America and its culture.
“We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do so everything was a surprise,” Enrique said.
The students explored how UI Extension works with communities and offers a different model from the government programs they are familiar with.
Attending a 4-H meeting and the Canyon County Fair were amazing moments. “It was amazing. The kids do so much work,” White said. Impressive too were 4-H fair projects from ceramics to showing sheep, chicken and rabbits.”
Other highlights were meeting Idaho Master Gardeners and people in general.
“That’s the real experience in America because you get to see everyone’s walks in life,” Farnan said.
CALS Speaker Series Hosts Experts, Panel Addressing GMOs
UI CALS will launch a college speaker series Monday, Sept. 18, with a program, “What’s for Dinner? A Guide to Understanding GMOs,” at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center on Moscow’s Main Street from 6-9 p.m.
Gould also will address fellow entomologists and the public Tuesday, Sept. 19, in a presentation about “Genetically Engineered Pests as Tools for Applied Entomology?” in the Bruce Pitman Center International Ballroom at 3:30 p.m.
The Sept. 18 CALS Speaker Series (www.uidaho.edu/cals/speaker-series) program will feature National Academy of Sciences member Fred Gould of North Carolina State University and science communicator Cara Santa Maria.
Gould is the William Neal Reynolds professor of agriculture at North Carolina State University. He studies the ecology and genetics of insect pests to improve food production and human and environmental health.
Santa Maria is a journalist, science communicator, television personality, producer and podcaster. She is a correspondent on Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves the World and the creator and host of a weekly science podcast called Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria.
The program will include a panel discussion featuring commodity experts:
- Cathy Wilson, Director of Research Collaboration, Idaho Wheat Commission
- Doug Cole, Sr. Manager of New Product Marketing and Biotech Affairs, Simplot Plant Sciences
- Elizabeth Bingham, Farmer, American Sugar Beet Grower Biotechnology Spokeswoman
The Sept. 19 program is part of the Bi-University Guest Speaker Series or BUGSS sponsored by UI and Washington State University departments. Gould will summarize the theoretical, experimental and practical issues being addressed by researchers attempting to genetically suppress or alter characteristics of insect pest populations.
The programs are free and open to the public.
Gould led a National Academy of Sciences panel that issued the report, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects” in 2016.
The committee’s task was to examine evidence both pro and con about genetically engineered crops already commercialized and the potential benefits and negative effects of future genetically engineered crops.
Faces and Places
Former CALS Dean John Foltz will serve as chair of The Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He will join CFAES for a four-year appointment on Oct. 9.
- Sept. 6 — CALS Welcome Back Picnic, Relocated to the Livestock Pavilion along West Sixth Street past Perimeter Drive on campus, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 9 — UI Extension 4-H Robotics and Eureka! Palouse kick-off the 2017-18 FIRST LEGO League season, Eureka! Palouse, 509 S. Howard, Moscow, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Sept. 18 — CALS program about Genetically Modified Organisms, Kenworthy Performing Arts Center, Main Street, Moscow, featuring National Academy of Science GMO committee chair Fred Gould of North Carolina State University and science communicator Cara Santa Maria. Panelists include representatives of the Idaho Wheat Commission, Simplot Plant Sciences and Idaho sugar beet producers, 6 p.m.
- Sept. 19 — Fred Gould, William Neal Reynolds professor of agriculture at North Carolina State University, will address "Genetically engineered pests as tools for applied entomology?" Bruce Pitman Center International Ballroom, 3:30 p.m.
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