President Obama Signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University
Courtesy of MSU.

I was so excited to see that President Obama went to my Alma Mater – Michigan State University – to sign the Farm Bill.  He signed it in the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, which I remember well because I lost my parking spot for my building across the street -the Plant and Soil Science Building!  All my friends and colleagues were posting pictures on facebook as the hour approached and it was fantastic to know that we now have funding for things like the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, and the pest and disease prevention programs.

I will be certainly taking advantage of these grant programs as we head into the next year and hope to have significant funding for stone fruit extension efforts in breeding nationwide for Rosaceae crops and also here at home for fruit quality and peach flavor research.

Important Items for Horticulture Research –

–Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) will receive $275M over five years with budget protection beyond FY2018. (2008 Farm Bill provided for $230M over 5 years)

–For SCRI, the new farm bill provides an additional $125M authorization for five years solely for an “Emergency Citrus Disease Research & Extension Program”.  This additional funding will NOT be taken out of the original $275M allocated for other specialty crop research projects.

Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI) gets $316M for FY2014, a big $52M increase from two years ago.

The Organic Agriculture Research & Education Initiative (OREI) retains its funding level at $100M over five years…..$20M each year.

The Beginning Farmers / Ranchers Development Program also has $100M total over five years — $20M/yr. for FYs 14-18.

The National Clean Plant Network programIt retains an annual base funding level of $5M/yr., allowing for additional annual funds if permitted by the USDA Secretary.  Clean Plant Network’s budget is now merged with Plant Pest & Disease Management.


Formula / Extension Research:  Those crucial land-grant funding programs get a boost for FY14:

  • Hatch gets $244M….an $8M increase from 2012
  • Smith-Lever Extension gets $300M….a $6M increase from 2012
  • Evans-Allen (1890) schools get $52.4M…a $1.5M increase from 2012
  • Extension for 1890 schools get $44M…a $1.3M increase

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) gets almost $23M for FY14, an $8.2M increase with a combined research and extension budget.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research:

A NIFA program providing tax incentives for private sector contributions to competitive research grants funded by USDA. Program funding total is $200M, which will cover the entire period of this new farm bill — FY14-18.

SCRI Dual Panel Review Arrangement / Matching Waivers:

The new farm bill ushers in a dual panel grant review process for SCRI.  This allows greater collaborative review procedures among research scientists, specialty crop industries, and other stakeholders.

In the 2014 Farm Bill: Sect. 7128 – Non-Federal Matching:

The Conference substitute adopts the House provision with an amendment. The amendment requires at least a 100 percent match from the recipient of competitive grants under certain covered laws but exempts grants awarded to a research agency of the USDA and entities, including their partners, that are eligible to receive capacity funds. The amendment authorizes the Secretary to waive the match requirement if the grant involves research or extension activities that the NAREEE Advisory Board has determined is a national priority specific to a statutory purpose of the program under which the grant is awarded. The match policy will apply to new grants awarded after October 1, 2014. (Section 7128).

What kind of research do you hope to see funded for your crops that you grow?


What Does the Extension Service Do For YOU?

I received this forward from a colleague this morning – http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/farm-bill-ag-extension/.  It’s an article about how agriculture extension, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Farm Bill all affect our lives on a daily basis even though we may not realize it.  (By the way, it’s from a great magazine called Wired – and it’s my husband’s subscription.  Which explains why I never saw this issue…magazines disappear in my house.)

Kudos to the author, Gwen Pearson for writing this article because although I am preaching to the choir for this blog’s audience, the majority of Americans don’t understand the extension service and all that we do.  My daily routine does have a lot of computer time, and not as much field work or face time with growers as I would like.  However, as extension specialists, our goals are to conduct research that addresses production challenges in the region/state and crop that we work with.  But, without stable funding, most of our time is spent writing grants to fund our applied research and support the people that help us do that work.  Deep down, all of us in extension really want to help people. (I would love to be a nurse, but I can’t stand blood or hurting people).

In this time of extra reporting for government jobs, it’s often difficult to write discrete statements about what extension accomplishes on a day by day basis.  We in extension, are often modest individuals that don’t trumpet our successes, yet – we are bearers of economic successes.  It’s the extra information that we deliver that helps a grower make decisions that result in profitability.  Yet, we in extension are not the first ones they call when they make that extra $1,000 per acre or 25% increase in yearly profits because of the information they received from the extension service.  Yet these success stories are exceedingly important to our progress reports for our Universities and States/National government that fund Extension through Smith/Lever funds and Hatch research funds to prove we making an impact.

We are also the bearers of life-changing information – in our 4-H agents and health and nutrition programs.  Do you have a child that has sold an animal as part of the 4-H program?  Those funds that kids get are often used for college and other educational endeavors that maybe their families can’t fund themselves.  One lamb even sold for over $80,000!  University of Florida, and IFAS Extension in particular offer Solutions for Your Life like keeping your New Year’s resolution, or caring for an aging parent or spouse, or even transitioning farms to family members to keep agriculture alive in each generation.

Finally, we help citizens prepare for disaster and recovery.  One great example of this is the work that UF Extension did with members of the community of Live Oak to recover after the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.  This storm sticks out in my mind because was the first big party with a bouncy house for my daughter’s fifth birthday, yet it was cancelled because of TS Debby.  Although it dumped massive amounts of rain, many people evacuated and were safe.  However, the storm caused significant damage and Suwannee County Extension worked with citizens to develop a recovery plan.

So, I guess the question is for everyone in our communities – what does the Extension Service do for YOU?

Central Florida Peach Roundtable

Hi All – Just some details about the next C. Florida Peach Roundtable:

Please mark your calendar for Tuesday January 14, 2014 from 10am to 12pm at Pasco County Extension office (Clayton Hall) for the next Central Florida Peach Roundtable.

Our tentative speaker for this Peach Roundtable is Dr. Jose Chaparro. The topic and other information will be published on January 1, 2014 in the newsletter. So please be on the lookout for your copy of the Winter Edition of the Central Florida Peach Newsletter at that time.

Happy New Year to you all!

Stompin’ Around the Orchards

‘Flordaprince’ Peach

August 10, 2011

Thus far 2011 has been a great year!  We had a pretty warm spring that was relatively dry and most growers harvested a fantastic crop of peaches.  Some growers were harvesting as early as late March, a few weeks earlier than the typical start date in early April.

Our program staff has expanded with the addition of a Ph.D. graduate student, who is working on determining optimal rates of nitrogen for subtropical peach production and a new biological scientist who has been a HUGE help in the orchard this season.  Unluckily for him, he started at the beginning of harvest, and was thrown into the lion’s den of research.

We are working on several research projects in the program:

  • Impact of Nitrogen Rate on Peach Tree Growth and Fruit Quality
  • Rootstock evaluation for resistance to M. floridensis and genetics of resistance
  • Economics of orchard establishment and production
  • Impact of IBA concentration on rooting softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood cuttings
  • Impact of gibberellic acid on tree growth and fruit quality

The other part of my program is Extension and outreach – and we have had several field days that started with our annual Citra Field Day on April 27, 2011, then the May 2011 Conserv II Field Day, and a Variety Showcase in Hastings, FL.  I am also involved in a couple of national grants that do research and extension on a national level – RosBREED, and Tree Fruit Genomic Database Resources (tfGDR).  These projects serve to further the Rosaceae industry (the parent family for peaches, plums, nectarines, and other crops) and I am trying to integrate outreach and breeding to trumpet the successes of these programs and involve stakeholders that help us to get funding on a national level.  If you have questions about these projects or the tools provided by these projects, please let me know!

Growers at the Stone Fruit Field Day, Citra, FL
April 27, 2011
Peach Pruning Demonstration, Conserv II, Winter Garden, FL
May, 2011
Peach Variety Showcase, Hastings, FL
Peach Variety Showcase, Hastings, FL
May, 2011

If you would like to be notified of these events, please send me an e-mail at mercy1@ufl.edu to get on my peach mailing list.

Finally, we installed a research and demonstration orchard down at the Indian River REC in Fort Pierce, FL last week – and it was stinking hot!  We tried to start at 7 am, and it still wasn’t early enough! We will be using this orchard for field days in the future and rotate between our Citra orchard and the Fort Pierce facility.

Peach Bed Preparation
Prepared Bed with Two Rows
Peach Orchard Establishment
Peach Tree Ready for Planting
Orchard Establishment, Fort Pierce, FL
Established Orchard, IRREC, Fort Pierce, FL

I also continue to get around the state to see new orchards being established and teach groups of growers about production techniques – I can’t get around to everyone, but let me know if you need some help and we can usually solve the problem with e-mails and phone calls!

Have a great summer!


The Importance of Extension

June, 2010

With the national budget a constant debate in the U.S. House and Senate, I can’t help but be troubled about the loss of some of our research funds. I think that this is a perfect time to tell the taxpayers about what the Extension Service does for them. A great article was published recently on the importance of Extension:  http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/seven-reasons-why-extension-needed-today – and it’s a great summarization of how we as specialists and agents help our community members to be more productive.

My favorite points in this article are that Extension Service personnel are synergists and collaborators. We are tasked with cultivating partnerships and forging new partnerships by networking and bringing industry members together to be more successful. I have been part of several workshops where we have gathered input from industry members and have turned it into important research proposals and projects. This is by far the most rewarding part of being an applied research scientist; we work to help growers stay in agriculture.

Collaboration is essential for the success of any industry, and the burgeoning peach industry in Florida is a key beneficiary of collaboration among government agencies, universities, private companies, and growers. Extension personnel are often at the table when key agricultural issues are being discussed, especially as we in the State of Florida talk about implementing Best Management Practices for our specialty crops. Growers are a key collaborating partner for University Extension. In fact, I love collaborating with growers to showcase on-farm demonstrations of new production techniques – because if any one method to encourage adoption of new techniques is better than others, it is by seeing another growers’ success using the new techniques.

I am sure that our elected officials will work through this great economic challenge for our country; I am hopeful that our communities will notice little difference in how state extension agencies operate. I hope that I can continue to serve my state and university in all aspects of applied research for the future, because simply, I love extension.



Mercy Olmstead, Ph.D.