It was, quite simply, a great budget year. Here it is by the numbers:
- $8.8 million for research to update our nutrient rate recommendations, probably the single-most urgent request from our agricultural producers this year.
- A $3.65 million increase in “workload” for personnel and programs that serve our stakeholders.
- $2 million to deploy artificial intelligence to measure and monitor the ecosystem services provided by working lands.
- $3 million to increase the annual class size at the College of Veterinary Medicine by 20 students.
The individual numbers matter a lot. Each is the fuel to advance our work in a particular area of public need. What matters just as much is the cumulative story they tell, that people trust us to make Florida a better place.
Trust doesn’t come through a single frenetic session of advocacy. It comes from decades of service, building a reputation year by year, project by project, for delivering science our constituents rely upon to improve their lives.
We saw that trust clearly in the nutrient rate funding. The Legislature sees us as a source of solutions to the state’s water quality challenges, so they’ve asked us to go big, beyond what we had originally envisioned for the next 12 months.
Industry goes to bat for IFAS
We did not ask for the $1.1 million in the budget to expand our geomatics faculty. Industry did. We’re happy it did so. The companies that employ our geomatics graduates, too, trust us. And they go to bat for us in Tallahassee.
That’s the other gratifying story in the encouraging dollar figures. As much as Mary Ann Hooks and Christopher Hodge deserve praise, we succeeded in Tallahassee because we had strong allies and champions for our cause. Some of these allies wore cowboy hats, big belt buckles, and boots. Others wore khakis and button-down Oxfords. Yet others not yet old enough to vote wore green blazers.
There’s little time for a victory lap, because the money comes with the urgency that it be converted into solutions and service and relief. We have but 12 months to spend much of it.
It’s not a gift, but a challenge. Our funders are expecting prompt results.
I’ve been through enough of these good times to know they don’t last forever. But they’re more likely to come, and to linger longer, when they’re built on a foundation of trust. Let’s spend the next year demonstrating yet again to our advocates, funders, stakeholders and customers that their trust in us is justified.