Sunday, August 18

UC agriculture division under president’s control again

The University of California’s agriculture division is again reporting directly to the UC president, six years after it was reorganized to adjust for funding cuts.

In a press release last week, UC President Janet Napolitano said she hopes the change will highlight the role of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state’s economy. She will now directly oversee the division’s affairs.

“It’s really to emphasize the importance of (the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources), the work they do, and agriculture in general in terms of contribution (to the state),” said UC spokeswoman Shelly Meron.

The division is a statewide network that includes more than 700 UC academic researchers and 300 advisers and specialists dedicated to researching food production, processing and distribution.

The division operates nine research and extension centers, including three in Southern California, and local offices in every county of the state. It also oversees scientific research centers at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Riverside.

Currently, 26 staff members work for the UC Cooperative Extension program in Los Angeles County, which serves as a local outreach office for the division.

Keith Nathaniel, director of the Cooperative Extension program in L.A., said the program, as well as the division, translates research-based information to practical application for local communities.

For instance,the program worked with UCLA’s urban planning department in 2013 to develop an interactive website identifying different types of urban farms in L.A. County, Nathaniel said.

The division started reporting to the UC Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs instead of the UC Office of the President in 2008. The shift was part of a reorganization of the UC Office of the President by former UC President Mark Yudof that cut more than $50 million from its budget to mitigate the impact of shrinking state support.

Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the division, said it was natural for the division to be under the president’s control. As the UC is a land-grant university partially funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it makes sense for the UC to have a similar arrangement to other land-grant universities, she added.

Meron added that Napolitano has looked at where she can make changes to the UC’s administration. Napolitano targeted reform of the UC administration’s structure as one of her presidential initiatives. The reorganization is a part of the examination, Meron said.

Allen-Diaz said the President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources discussed the reorganization for many months. The division works closely with Napolitano on various initiatives, such as the initiative to reduce campus water use by 20 percent by 2020, she added.

Nathaniel said he doesn’t anticipate a big change from the reorganization – at least not in the short-term.

“Expertise we have always offered (to) the University is always still available,” Nathaniel said. “Academics and colleagues will continue to do the work and offer the research to the larger community and University.”

Nathaniel said the move may boost the visibility and profile of the Cooperative Extension program within the UC community, however, especially because the division already has researchers working on three of Napolitano’s presidential initiatives, including the water-use reduction project.

Meron said she is not aware of any new initiatives or projects that will come from the reorganization. Napolitano will determine “what makes sense to do,” Meron said.

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