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Storytelling advocates for Floridians

One of the VP’s main jobs is to get the resources our faculty and staff need to do theirs. I love doing this.

Asking for funding is an opportunity to tell the story of the men and women of UF/IFAS making Florida and the world a better place. Right now that means telling that story in Tallahassee.

Our storytelling is advocating for the people of Florida. Not just farmers. Not just land managers. It’s for the people whose lives are extended by a Take Charge of Your Diabetes class. It’s for the farmworker who gets information in Spanish or Haitian Creole about how to keep himself safe in a pandemic. It’s for the young person who finds a home in 4-H. It’s for the 18-year-old we’ll put through four years of discovering how to feed the world.

The 2021 legislative session officially started on March 2, but for me it started almost as soon as I arrived here in July. Mary Ann Hooks and Victoria Price have arranged dozens of meetings with legislators over the past eight months.

Photo taken before CDC recommendations on masking and social distancing.

This has allowed for time for real conversations. Good thing, too, because the scope of what UF/IFAS does is too vast for an elevator pitch.

In addition to our overall budget, we have recurring appropriations in animal agriculture, Cervidae research, forestry, aquaculture, invasive species, and more. We’ve requested a base budget increase of $3.7 million, what we call workload. We need it to do the fertilizer rates research and other science our stakeholders are clamoring for.

Some lawmakers and budgeteers understand well the importance of agriculture and natural resources in our state. The others have been refreshingly open to learning.

The Power of Partnership

The legislative session tests the strength of the government-academia-industry partnership that powers the land-grant mission. The better informed the policy makers are, the better decisions they can make.

Leaders from the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association have again this year made our story part of their story to legislators. It’s powerful testimony on why our work matters so much, because it comes directly from the beneficiaries.

If you don’t already receive FYIFAS, Mary Ann and Victoria’s weekly account of the legislative session, I recommend getting on their email list. You can do that here: https://forms.gle/Rv5VikFW44dBxeTi7. What Florida does for us through the support of the Legislature is a key determinant of what we can do for Florida.