The Vantage Point

Glenda Humiston 
Vice President
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

As I write this month’s column, I can’t help but reflect on the resiliency of the people of California in the face of so many challenges. With an unprecedented number of wildfires causing horrifying damage and smoke over much of the state, it’s impossible not to be saddened by the somber realities that many people are facing. On top of that, COVID-19 continues to keep us distanced, forcing remote engagement and uncertain school starts across the state. As our UC ANR staff and academics cope with the challenge of working remotely, coupled with home schooling in some cases, they continue to generate the information and solutions that our communities need in order to cope with fire, food system issues, drought and more. I’m extremely grateful for the amazing work they do as well as all the first responders who are helping to keep us safe.  
 
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, UC is facing significant budget cuts that will be keenly felt for a number of years. UC ANR, like every other part of the system, must be very strategic in how we manage these cuts to minimize harm to our ability to deliver the mission while also thinking creatively about how to position UC ANR to serve ever greater demands. Implementation of administrative efficiencies over the past few years, coupled with a push to expand and diversify our funds sources, has positioned us to cope with the current financial pressures in better shape than we might have previously. However, there is no way to avoid the reality that – until we can turn this budget situation around – it will be a challenge to deliver research, extension and programs at the same level we once did. Our goal now is to prioritize our people so that we can come out of this situation stronger with the ability to rebuild through new and expanded partnerships, better infrastructure and a collective resolve to strengthen the organization.
 
We do have some good news! With a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation and USDA, UC ANR is collaborating with several institutions to create a new Artificial Intelligence institute for next-generation Food Systems (AIFS). AIFS puts UC ANR in a leading role with UC Davis, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Cornell in developing AI-based technology for the food system, but perhaps more importantly - applying it in real world situations, training a next generation workforce, and engaging the public in its value.
 
In this issue, you will see other great examples of ingenuity, resiliency and commitment to the UC ANR mission. We have continued to “show up” for our communities, adapting our programs and extension to meet changing demands. Whether it’s providing tips for the many Californians who have become new poultry owners during this pandemic (see Poultry 101 below) or being called upon to provide expertise in fire fuels suppression, our staff and academics have continued to serve. We are still “boots on the ground” and I am proud to share some of these stories with you. 
 
In closing, we thank you for your support of UC ANR and invite you to join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Warm regards,
Glenda