Ag Talk


Jack Payne
Jack Payne

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By Jack Payne

One of the greatest compliments the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences gets is some variety of, “If it weren’t for IFAS, I wouldn’t be in business.” It’s the ultimate endorsement of impact.

It’s not just the testimonial. It’s who it comes from. The experts. You.

Every year we strive to provide more of the know-how that keeps you in business. To do that, we have to make the business case for more funding from the Legislature. We call it “workload” – how much of a funding increase we request to keep up with your needs.

If you’re one of those folks who say you wouldn’t be in business without IFAS, please say it to a legislator. Call, write or even visit Tallahassee if you can. You have a powerful voice. You’re the proof that state dollars are spent effectively.

At a recent meeting of the Florida Agricultural Council, UF/IFAS Research Dean Rob Gilbert updated the group with a sampling of our latest scientific breakthroughs. They include:

  • Dr. Mike Mulvaney at the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center documenting how cover crops increase soil moisture storage. His results have been used to implement a $75-per-acre cost share program in the Blue Springs area, while increasing farm income by $60 per acre for cotton growers in the western Panhandle.
  • Dr. Johnny Ferrarezi planting 5,440 grapefruit trees across 30 acres at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center to evaluate rootstocks and scions to rebuild the region’s grapefruit industry.
  • Research by Drs. Joao Vendramini, Jose Dubeux, and Esteban Rios on a bermudagrass variety with greater early spring forage production than most bermudagrass cultivars with similar nutritive value and persistence. It has promise as way for ranchers to cut their feed bills.You may have your own story of how UF/IFAS science improved your bottom line. Please tell people in Tallahassee about it.We can do more of the kinds of things Dean Gilbert highlighted if we have the resources to do so. Workload not only helps us pay researchers’ salaries, but it contributes to the Extension workforce that delivers UF/IFAS science to your community.

Those Extension needs are extensive. For example, there are about 25 county agent positions on hold because we lack funds, even where counties have approved paying part of those salaries. A workload increase would also allow us to consider adding regional specialized agents in precision agriculture, farm enterprise management and natural resources management.

It depends on state funding. Like cops on the beat or schoolteachers in the classroom, agricultural scientists in the lab, greenhouse, demonstration farm, or experimental grove are public servants.

Because your work is largely hidden from the public – and from legislators – so is ours. Please help us tell the story of how we feed Florida, the nation and the world.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.