Quality and Safety of Food Production Systems through Research and Extension is the theme for the Pro-Agri-Food Initiative to be advanced for the FY 99 legislative session. This initiative represents considerable effort and input from leaders of commodity-based, agricultural organizations and representatives from designated units within the College of Agriculture and Home Economics (CAHE). If successful, this initiative will provide $ 2.3 million for new faculty and support positions in the first year of the biennium. This will represent a significant step toward a 10-year enhancement for statewide Research and Extension programs of the College.
The initiative began to take shape more than a year ago, when a Steering Committee was formed under the leadership of Jim Barron, retired former head of the Department of Agricultural Economics. Questionnaires were mailed to a wide array of organizations affiliated with agriculture to identify areas of high priority that CAHE should address, given the resources. These issues were then compared to the CAHE five-year strategic plan to determine how well the two matched. The issues and resources that were identified were larger than could be anticipated for funding by the Legislature. By necessity, the initiative became focused on the current theme.
This initiative seeks new and vital resources to address emerging issues of major importance to the College, production agriculture industries, and residents of the state who are concerned about food quality and safety and impacts of agriculture on the environment. Federal legislation and subsequent enforcement measures will require new research and implementation of on-site educational programs. These tasks are within the proven capabilities of the Land Grant University, given the necessary resources to provide this expertise.
The Safe Drinking Water Amendment to the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) are two such federal laws that present challenges to Washington's largest agricultural industries and impact every commercial crop in the state. Loss of currently used pesticides could affect from 60 percent of the products used on wheat to all of the products available for pest control in many minor crops. Practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) depend on judicious use of pesticides in combination with many aspects of biological control. Likewise, the CWA contains water-related challenges to the dairy, livestock and farming enterprises of the state. Educational programs that implement 'best management practices' and new research expanding our knowledge base for these programs are important missions for CAHE.
An important task for CAHE will be to evaluate new herbicides and pesticides for efficacy on minor crops and to provide such data for product registration or special use permits. This effort should complement the missions of the WSU Food and Environmental Quality Lab and the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration.
Emphasis on food production 'systems' illustrates the importance of using holistic approaches in addressing challenges. Problem solving is often the product of multi-disciplinary efforts involving teams of scientists rather than the product of isolated individuals. The Pro-Agri-Food Initiative seeks to complement on-going teams with new team members who bring needed skills to successfully meet the new challenges of the 21st century.
This funding initiative does not meet all of the needs of the College. Complementary approaches using internal reallocation of resources to the most critical priorities of CAHE will also be required to maintain WSU as a premier Land Grant institution. Infrastructure needs, including new facilities and equipment, along with resources to maintain and improve existing structures to accommodate the needs of scientists and educators must also be addressed through long-range planning and future funding efforts.
Objectives, Outcomes, and Enhanced Programs/Resources of the Pro-Agri-Food Initiative:
Enhance food quality and safety from farm to table.
Develop and communicate best management practices, improve strategies for crop and live stock production to prevent contamination and food-borne illness, and improve food quality control and food preparation practices for agricultural producers, food processors and consumers.
Create economically viable crop and animal production systems that maintain and enhance the natural resources of soil, water, and air.
Advance, through design, demonstration, and educational programs, agricultural production systems that increase farm viability through genetic improvement programs, managing water use, and handling post-harvest waste.
Safely protect food crops from insects, diseases and other pests.
Discover and communicate alternatives for plant protection through genetic engineering, plant breeding, biological control and integrated pest management to address the Food Quality Protec- tion Act (FQPA). The FQPA accelerates our need to address critical pest management needs, complementing missions of the WSU Food and Environmental Quality Lab and the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration.
Return to title page April 1998 Agrichemical and Environmental News