Opinion: Agriculture’s Voice Heard Loud And Clear

Well, it is like the difference between being shot in the leg rather than the head. At least we’ll survive.” That is how one University of Florida insider described the 2008-2009 budget cut for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). He added that it could have been worse.

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Last month, university president Bernie Machen recommended that IFAS take a 6% budget reduction, which amounts to $9.5 million. While that is a lot of money, it is a lot less than some figures that were floated around soon after a controversy erupted surrounding alleged comments by Machen regarding the dying state of agriculture in Florida and the funding of IFAS. Those comments sent Florida’s agricultural community into action and flooded Machen’s office with letters and phone calls.

The state’s ag sector made it clear that agriculture was not a dying industry, and to his credit, Machen listened. Most in Florida agriculture agree that IFAS did not take a disproportionate cut. In our April issue, we dedicated much of our coverage to the important role of IFAS and agriculture in the state. The issue was as well received as any that I’ve ever been involved with, underscoring Florida agriculture’s strong feelings on the subject.

A Cut Is A Cut

While the budget hit was not as bad as was earlier feared, it is a cut nonetheless. IFAS head Dr. Jimmy Cheek noted that IFAS will struggle to maintain its teaching, research, and Extension programs throughout the state. “Within IFAS, cuts were made strategically to protect the core missions of teaching, research, and Extension,” said Cheek, adding, “no Extension office or research and education center will be closed.”

The $9.5 million state budget reduction will largely be achieved through the elimination or restructuring of certain staff positions. Three key support units (news, information technology, and communication services) are being reorganized and downsized.

Congratulations To Our Winner

On a more positive note, I’d like to congratulate our 2008 Citrus Achievement Award winner: Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations at Southern Gardens. When greening came along, Snively and his team at Southern Gardens knew they couldn’t ignore the disease and put together a program to hopefully mitigate the spread of greening while scientists search for a cure. We’d also like to thank Chemtura for sponsoring this important award program that recognizes excellence in the state’s citrus industry.

Snively will be honored during a special award presentation held on June 12, at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs.