Catching Up with CALS — April 22, 2020
Dean's Message — Challenge Met
Everyone knows these are challenging times. We read it in the news, and we know it from our own lives. Our jobs once brought us in touch daily with people we know and serve through the mission of a land-grant university. We now spend time online creating new approaches to helping people.
For most of us these changes are serious, but surmountable — even though they might not feel that way at times.
Fortunately, for the vast majority of us, our loved ones are healthy, and our jobs are much less affected than those of millions of fellow Americans.
Our nation and the world face one of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes. Lives are at risk and we are asked to make sacrifices none of us likely would have imagined possible when we began 2020.
The All-CALS meeting with UI Extension on April 15 demonstrated once again how good it is to work with such dedicated and flexible faculty and staff.
CALS and Extension will face challenges in maintaining its missions of teaching, research and outreach. We can also take some comfort because those missions let us enjoy strong support from Idaho legislators, agriculture leaders and the public in general.
Our efforts to serve agriculture bring us flexibility and opportunities to keep moving CALS forward.
With state revenues and funding uncertain at best, we are receiving strong support from Idaho’s commodity commissions for our initiatives. Like us, they do not know yet how COVID-19 will affect markets their growers rely on, but I am encouraged they will help us continue to make progress.
Like generations before us, this is our time to face a serious challenge. Our actions will define us.
In CALS we are trying to balance meeting ongoing budget challenges and budget reductions ahead while maintaining and investing in programs and facilities that look to the future.
My goal is for CALS to maintain the momentum we have developed over the past four years. Our commitment to persevere combined with strong support from state and private leaders make me optimistic that we will meet that challenge successfully.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
4,900,000,000 pounds of Idaho potatoes remained in storage on April 1 from Idaho’s 2019 production, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. That’s about 37% and less than the 40% recorded last year for 2018 potato stocks. Idaho farmers produced 130,900,000 hundredweight (or 13.09 billion pounds) of potatoes last fall.
Our Stories — A Graphic Look at COVID-19
The Rural Studies Program operated by CALS Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and UI Extension developed a website with infographics to illustrate the disease’s impact on each of Idaho’s counties.
With little more than 1% of Idaho’s population, rural Blaine County suffers more than a quarter of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Paul Lewin, an applied economist at U of I, directs the program. The COVID-19 site began through conversations with researchers across the U.S. about how researchers could help state and local leaders respond most carefully to the disease.
“The main problem in this crisis is that the COVID-19 collapses the health system. To avoid the health system collapse, governments are imposing quarantines to reduce the flow of patients. This is creating an economic crisis,” Lewin said.
The infographics serve as snapshots to help state and local policy makers, and the general public, better understand each county and the pandemic’s potential impact.
Information about the number of hospital beds available, number of residents 65 and older and other community characteristics can help local officials create quarantine rules that best fit their communities, Lewin said.
Information about internet availability, he said, can help officials decide the feasibility of employers asking workers to go online, or schools asking students to attend classes online. Data about the number of households in poverty or receiving federal food aid can help plan for those most in need.
Another vital statistic on the infographic tracks how many people have health insurance by age groups, and those who lack insurance. Successful efforts to reduce the number of cases to protect people’s health would reduce the economic burden on uninsured patients and on hospitals, Lewin said.
The county-focused snapshots are part of the Idaho Observatory website through the department’s Rural Studies Program.
In Blaine County nearly 1 in 6 residents are 65 or older, the group at most serious risk from the virus. Another slice through the statistics shows more than 1 in 7 residents across all ages lack health insurance.
The U of I program is affiliated with the Oregon State University Rural Studies Program established nearly 20 years ago to use multiple science-based approaches to understand and help communities.
The site compiled American Community Survey information gathered by the U.S. Census to create the infographics. Lewin and CALS web coordinator Debra Rumford created the infographics.
Faces and Places
Brad Stokes, UI Extension educator in Elmore County, collaborated with Elmore County and Mountain Home officials, including Mayor Rich Sykes and City Councilman Matthew Bundy, to hand out tree and shrub seedlings this week to commemorate Earth Day and Arbor Day. The plants were purchased from the U of I Franklin H. Pitkin Forest Nursery at Parker Farm east of Moscow.
- April 25 — CALS (Virtual) Olympics, details on the CALS Instagram story (@uicals), 1 p.m. PDT/2 p.m. MDT
- May 1 — CALS Alumni nominations due for current year
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