20 percent reductions erase Small Farm Program, more


Capital Press

Although no Cooperative Extension farm advisors or specialists will lose their jobs, University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources division has announced some sweeping cuts.

Statewide, the Small Farm Program, Center for Water Resources, Integrated Hardwood Range Management and California Communities programs will be closed.

Losing 20 percent of their operating budget will be the Integrated Pest Management, Mosquito Research and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education programs as well as the Agricultural Issues Center and state 4-H office.

Dan Dooley, ANR vice president, began the budget announcements in September as a way to survive $9 million in budget reductions. Steve Nation, executive director of governmental and external relations, and Rick Standiford, associate vice president, had their positions eliminated.

Nation, who has had a 25-year career with UC, said he supports Dooley in his efforts to reduce the administrative footprint of the division.

One of the most notable losses will be that of the Small Farm Program.

Since 2000, the Small Farm Program has brought in $1.97 million in grants and contracts to the University. By ending the Small Farm Program, ANR will save $140,000 in annual costs, along with a one-time savings of $268,000.

According to USDA's most recent Census information, California has 68,536 small-scale farmers, and 47 percent of California's farmers have limited resources.

The Small Farm Program has served thousands of smaller farmers in California since being established 30 years ago, in response to a lawsuit detailing how the university's mechanization research adversely impacted small-scale farmers. For many new farmers, immigrant farmers and small-scale growers, the Small Farm Program's advisors have been linked to university research in a food system often more conducive to large-scale production.

The program brought research and grant funding for niche crops, farmers markets and minority farmers. It has also promoted agri-tourism and provided a Web site with nearly 25,000 page views each month of field-tested information on specialty crops, direct marketing, agritourism, post harvest handling, and farm management topics -- as well as a newsletter with more than 5,000 subscribers. The program also provided leadership to the California Small Farm Conference, which rotates around the state and consistently supports 600 participants each year.

Cecilia Parsons is a staff writer based in Ducor. E-mail: cparsons@capitalpress.com.

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