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Statewide Stakeholder Webinar

UF/IFAS Extension Statewide Stakeholder Webinar Summary

The spring session of the semi-annual UF/IFAS Extension stakeholder webinar occurred on June 10. In Extension we engage in dialogue with stakeholders every day, but these webinars are a chance to talk with our stakeholders, colleagues, volunteers, friends and supporters across the state in a collective way. This webinar provides an update about what’s been happening in UF/IFAS Extension for the first half of 2019, as well as key initiatives and goals for the rest of the year and beyond. You can watch a recording of the webinar on the UF/IFAS Extension administration website (https://extadmin.ifas.ufl.edu/) under “Communications.” For your convenience, here is a summary:

2019 FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE SESSION

The Florida Legislature approved the 2019 budget on May 4. And, as of this writing (June 21), we just received Governor DeSantis’ response.

In the 2019 budget, $1 million has been allocated for UF/IFAS Research and Extension workload which is very good to see; however,this was considerably smaller than the $3.9 million necessary to meet the demand we have around the state.

$750,000 was allocated for 4-H as non-recurring funds. However, this was vetoed by the Governor In addition, the Governor vetoed $1 Mill. from our CLCE program.

During the session, there were several other legislature budget request items (LBRs)  that we’ve been trying to restore from $6.5 Million in cuts received three years ago. These included  4-H, geomatics education, the Tropical Aquaculture Lab in Ruskin, and our horticulture research and education program. We also had LBRs for facilities upgrades for the Southwest Florida REC and the Tropical REC in Homestead. Unfortunately, none of those LBRs have not yet been approved by the house and senate.

Considering this shortfall, we’ve enacted a hiring freeze on newly created positions as well as a freeze on positions resulting from the IFAS Retirement Program. . Recognize that further adjustments may need to be made; however, this all needs to still be worked out depending upon how everything lands.

2018 FARM BILL

After a long and complicated process, the U.S. congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed by President Trump in December. One sticking point of the bill that concerned us in Extension was funding for nutrition education programs such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed); however minimal changes were made to these programs.

Other changes to Farm Bill that affect IFAS and Extension included increases in mandatory funding for organic agriculture, urban, indoor and other emerging agriculture practices, digital and novel technologies for Extension design and demonstration, and increasing indirect costs for facilities and other expenditures on grants for agricultural research, teaching and Extension. That said, the implementation language for these changes is lagging, due to government shutdowns and the decision to relocate the USDA to Kansas City.

DISASTER RESPONSIVENESS

Hurricane Michael, which we had discussed in our last stakeholder webinar in December, dealt a devastating blow to Florida’s Panhandle, causing over $140 Million damage to agriculture, $1.3 billion damage to forestry and considerable damage to damage to area’s shellfish and fisheries industries.

Several our Extension family were also directly affected by the hurricane, with widespread damage to facilities and homes. Nevertheless, they did a tremendous job of being proactive in preparing for the storm on short notice and pulling together in the aftermath to help people, animals and communities in need. This was a truly humbling effort to witness. Agriculture in that region is still recovering, and UF/IFAS Extension has been working tirelessly to help panhandle farmers and ranchers to rebuild their operations and obtain financial relief for their losses.

Through lessons learned from Hurricanes Michael and Irma we have stepped up a number of disaster procedures statewide and in all counties, including continuation of operations plans (COOPs) which identify emergency roles and responsibilities for all faculty and staff; improved communications plans; a new website for internal and external disaster preparedness and recovery; improved damage assessment tools for agriculture and natural resources; and expanded disaster training programs for all personnel.

We hope and pray that we don’t see any devastating hurricanes this year, but UF/IFAS Extension has been proactively preparing to meet any emergency as it comes.

2019/2020 KEY EXTENSION INITIATIVES

UF Capital Campaign & The Road to 67

The UF Capital Campaign has made great strides since it was launched in October of last year. So far, the campaign has raised more than $2 billion of its goal of $3 billion. The goal for IFAS is to raise $200 million; so far, we’ve raised $125 million, putting us on track to meet our goal by 2020.

As part of that effort, UF/IFAS Extension developed an initiative called the “Road to 67.” The goal is to establish at least one endowment in each of Florida’s 67 counties. These endowments will support Extension programming and presence on a local level, including your county 4-H, Master Gardener, Sea Grant, Ag and horticulture programs and others. Endowments have been locked down in 25 counties so far, with more in discussion. If Extension or a REC in your area has benefitted you, please consider ways to advance our efforts to bring more of those benefits to you and your community by setting up an endowment with your local Extension office.

4-H Camp Fundraising

Florida 4-H, UF/IFAS’ youth development program, has three residential camps. These 4-H camps have a long history of serving Florida’s youth: Camp Timpoochee in Niceville dates back to 1926; Camp Cherry Lake in Madison to 1937; Camp Cloverleaf is the relative newcomer, established in Lake Placid in 1956. These facilities have been regularly maintained over the years, and today all three are in need of help with lodging, dining areas, learning facilities and other necessary upgrades and improvements. As I and many of you who grew up with 4-H can attest, 4-H camping is an outstanding opportunity to learn and put into practice teamwork, citizenship, leadership and many other life skills that will guide you throughout adulthood. Please consider joining our fundraising efforts to provide Florida’s youth with the kind of educational experiences that only 4-H camping can offer.

Fiscal Responsibility

As the state budget debate has made clear, there is greater emphasis on universities to improve their fiscal responsibility. This is something that the University of Florida takes very seriously; this year UF has put in place several strategies to ensure the greatest level of accountability and responsibility with public funds and this includes IFAS Extension. In February and March of this year, we’ve held a series of meetings with our unit leaders and county Extension directors to discuss the importance of fiscal responsibility throughout UF/IFAS Extension, and are currently conducting training sessions for our directors, supervisors and fiscal staff.

Revenue Enhancement

Part of being fiscally responsible is actively seeking ways to raise supplemental revenue, and UF/IFAS Extension has in place our own initiative for revenue enhancement. The aim of the initiative is to diversify and strengthen our funding portfolio, while ensuring our accountability for public funds for Extension. This effort requires the involvement of everyone, not just county Extension directors, faculty and staff but extending to volunteers across all programs areas as well as advisory committee members. We’re also working closely with county governments to keep them informed about our fiscal responsibility efforts.

Volunteers

UF/IFAS Extension engages over 23,000 trained volunteers throughout the state, including 4-H, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Money Mentors and many other programs. our volunteers are the linchpin of our organization and we simply would not have the reach we have without them. We are currently working with the University of Florida’s human resources, General Counsel and others to develop a comprehensive plan to assure the highest level of consistency in the recruitment process, procedures and expectations for our volunteers. This comprehensive plan, once it’s rolled out over the next few months, will be the model for all UF volunteer programs.

UF Engagement

As part of the IFAS’ three-part mission of research, teaching and Extension, we have a tight bond with UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and all the departments within it. But we also engage with other UF colleges, bringing research and education outside the UF campus to meet the needs of people and communities throughout the state. This UF Engagement initiative has been expanding in recent years with support from grants and contracts, and now involves most UF Colleges.

The partnership between our Family, Youth and Community Sciences department and UF Health Sciences has been especially successful. In April of this year Extension and UF Health facilitated a national meeting that brought over 150 people from 30 states to explore how Extension and health services can work together to educate the public on health-related issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. This event was very successful and has led to donor interest that may result in a major endowment to support a statewide health-literacy initiative.

Reaching Residents Statewide

UF/IFAS Extension exists to serve all the people of Florida holistically , and our goal is to create educational programs that are accessible and beneficial to Florida’s diverse population. That population is growing and getting more diverse every day. This is especially true of Florida’s Hispanic and Latino population. Currently, it’s projected that more than one quarter of Floridians will identify themselves as Latino/Hispanic. In order to remain relevant and serve the needs of our Hispanic and Latino clientele, UF/IFAS Extension is working to enhance the cultural competency of our personnel and to design programming that reaches, engages and benefits people across all cultures. At the same time, we’re also working to serve our traditional clientele in rural and urban populations that are at the core of what we have been doing for the last 100 plus years.

Extension Roadmap

It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of our ten-year roadmap that outlines Extension’s initiatives, goals and strategies from 2013 to 2023.  As this is typically a two-year process, now it’s time to start planning our next organizational Roadmap. The process of putting together a roadmap of this kind is a long and involved one, because we will be talking with people around the state and gathering input from both our constituents and our personnel throughout the state. We are working now on developing the process, which we will begin to implement beginning this fall, with the goal to launch the new roadmap in 2023.

UF/IFAS Extension Administration Website

After a comprehensive reevaluation and design process, our newly-configured UF/IFAS Extension Administration website was launched June 1. This is designed to be a one-stop-shop for our Extension faculty and staff needs, with a more cohesive user experience that brings award, mini-grant and professional development opportunities to the forefront and makes it easier to find the information you’re looking for, whether its PDEC reporting, business services, calendar events or registration for ISTs. It’s also where you’ll find recorded archives of Extension Connections, including this statewide webinar and past webinars going back to 2015.

Extension Online Learning

Also added to the new website is a link to Extension Online Learning. This is an opportunity to reach a lot more people around the state with comprehensive learning modules that offer online training and professional development opportunities developed by UF/IFAS Extension faculty. Online Learning uses a “blended” learning method of interactive online courses supplemented with face-to-face sessions with our Extension faculty where we can go deeper into a topic, answer questions and build higher levels of understanding. There are currently 120 online modules on everything from pesticide applicator CEUs to beekeeping to nursery management, with more modules to come.

Harmful Algal Blooms

Harmful algal blooms (HAB) are an issue that a have recently gathered a lot of attention around our state, especially in the last couple of years. In order to help the public understand harmful algal blooms and provide research-based information to guide policy that can deal with this issue in a comprehensive way, UF/IFAS Extension has put together a Harmful Algae Bloom initiative that includes leading scientists from UF, state agencies, other universities and organizations. Sadly, the chair of this initiative, Dr. Karl Havens, passed away unexpectedly in April. Dr. Havens had been the director of Florida Sea Grant since 2007 and provided visionary leadership on Florida’s marine ecosystem and water quality issues. We are currently in the process of seeking new leadership to continue Dr. Havens’ work and vision with HAB.

Agritourism & Ecotourism

The two top industries in our state are tourism and agriculture. UF/IFAS Extension’s agritourism and ecotourism initiative is a way to help bring together and capitalize on these two economic drivers. Agritourism can diversify tourism around our state by giving visitors unique alternatives to beachcombing and theme parks, while helping them to understand the importance of agriculture and the beauty and benefits of our natural spaces. We’ve been pursuing collaborations with the UF College of Health and Human Performance as well with the Florida Agritourism Association to support the growing agritourism market in Florida, including vineyards and wineries, working farms and ranches, u-pick fruit and vegetable operations, specialty crops and products, and other enterprises.

Master Gardener Volunteer Program

One of the biggest success stories of UF/IFAS Extension is our Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program, which celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year. There are some 5,000 Master Gardener volunteers contributing over 387,000 hours of service in 60 Florida counties. MGs have been instrumental in spreading the word about Extension best practices and Florida-Friendly landscaping principles among homeowners, students and landscapers throughout the state. There will be a special recognition of the program at this year’s annual conference October 20-23 in Orlando that I look forward to participating with

Conclusion

So that’s a lot on our plate for 2019-2020. I’ll be discussing some of these initiatives in greater detail through blog posts throughout the remainder of the year. You’ll find them posted on the main page of the UF/IFAS Extension administration website (https://extadmin.ifas.ufl.edu).

I want to extend my sincere thanks to our stakeholders, our volunteers and our supporters throughout the state of Florida—your support and valuable perspective guides the work we do and is instrumental to making UF/IFAS Extension responsive to the needs of the people of Florida.

 

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