August 9th Conference Call

Attending: Cyndi, Casey, Gail, Debbie, Clint, Tom, Ellen, Dave, Shannon, Katie, Suzi, Tom, Penny


1. The Story of SCRI (Tom B.):

a. As an aside, Tom noted that lots of NICH folks at ASHS. Lucy is giving a talk, later this week on NICH. Good visibility for NICH at ASHS

b. 2002 Farm Bill. Small group of specialty crop industry tried to get SC into Farm Bill, unsuccessfully. They hired a former congressman as a consultant. One of the thing he told that small group (particularly United Fresh Vegetables) was that they needed to come to congress with a unified message. They created the specialty crop Farm Bill Alliance (that included United Fresh Vegetables, American Hort, US Apple, etc.). In prep for the 2007 Farm Bill, Johans from Nebraska had a series of listening sessions across the country. The group had 2-3 folks at every listening session ~ where they said they didn’t want handouts, they wanted $$ for research and extension. When they did an analysis of listening sessions, it came through that specialty crops were important and that funds were needed for research and extension. So, USDA was promoting specialty crops from one side (based upon comments coming in from industry), other specialty initiatives (e.g. National Grape and Wine Initiative) were coming forward to say that they needed money for research and extension. Next farm bill had $230 million for specialty crops (later, raised to $320 million). When we pulled NICH together, one hope was that we could have a plan that we could go to Congress, and at the same time, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill alliance is also saying we have a plan and need money . . . that gives Congress the confidence that there is thought behind this plan. NICH represents non-production side of things. We represent the consumer and novel approaches from NGOs. There is an opportunity to make the case that we need additional funds, so that the public can be served.

c. Question: What do we mean by Research and Extension: research on specialty crops that include both biology and social sciences. Extension is taking the scientific information, and putting it into language that people can understand. Research can include field and bench research to discover biologically relevant information, but can also include social science surveys.

d. Question: Who took the message to Congress?

Answer: The Specialty Crop Farm Bill alliance included folks who work in production agriculture. In addition, there were separate initiatives (tree fruit technology road map, NGWI, etc.) that took message to Congress.

e. Question: is community horticulture relevant? The idea of being outside in nature (particularly in urban areas) makes folks more healthy. All of this is data that industry can use to raise the profile of consumer horticulture.

Answer: Tom notes that NICH is inclusive. When Tom says consumer horticulture, it includes community gardens, urban planners, hort therapy, and more ~ indoor and outdoor gardening. It’s not just what the consumers are growing, but what the consumers are exposed to (e.g. interiorscapes ~ and a need to get these into more work spaces). These things have been included in NICH from the outset.

f. Casey notes that NICH is helping to get the message out, and helping to determine the priorities on the funding. We are not the body that carries out the research. We are not a funding organization. We are a planning organization that will allow the academic community to have that focus.

g. Question: Who decides how money gets distributed?

Answer: Since we already have SCRI, it will be easier to get funds added to SCRI for consumer horticulture ~ rather than start from scratch. For SCRI, there is an industry relevance review and scientific merit review. USDA takes these reviews (giving them equal weight), and makes decisions about how to distribute the funds.

h. Question: Would our committee decide what types of grant proposals we would put together?

Answer: NICH could put together a grant proposal. There is broad relevancy to SCRI calls for applications. As long as they are addressing priorities that have been identified, a group has a chance at funding. What groups are considering for funding will have an impact for industries we will serve.

i. Question: Where did the $320 million for SCRI go?

Answer: The money comes to USDA-NIFA on an annual basis: $80 million per year for 5 years. USDA-NIFA administers the SCRI. The funding is mandatory funding, and thus does not have to go through the appropriations process. Of the $80 million, a chunk (~$25 million?) goes to citrus research. For the remainder, scientific merit and relevancy review is used for USDA-NIFA to make recommendations. Most of the funding goes to Universities, but projects usually have partners that are outside of Universities. Most SCRI projects are quite large ~ cross discipline, cross state, cross organization. They are often big projects that focus on big picture challenges. One of the reasons that Universities are more successful at getting funding is that they have the infrastructure that supports their research efforts.

j. A lot of times, the prioritization is based upon the industry folks who review proposals. Prioritization is based upon 50% scientific merit and 50% industry relevance. This is where the industry has its biggest impact, through the relevancy review. That is why it is important to have representatives on the review panel who understand what the priorities are.

k. Question: Let’s say we come up with a number of $100 million dollars that we need over 5 years. Does this mean that this funding gets added on top of what is currently part of SCRI, and that part of the SCRI funds would be set apart of for NICH-type projects?

Answer: generally, funds are not set aside for particular initiatives. The citrus set aside was to deal with citrus greening disease, and this set aside is set to end soon. We should have a funding target in mind, but there likely won’t be a set aside.

l. Question: What we’re talking about is using our effort to increase SCRI funding from current allocation to a number that is greater, we’re not talking about a separate set aside, correct?

Answer: It would be easier to get overall SCRI funding increased (because it already exists), rather than getting a set aside. We need to come up with the right priorities, and we need to come up with the right people for the industry relevance review.

m. Question: Staffing the relevance panels is an extremely important annual charge for NICH. When is the deadline to suggest folks for the next round of funding?

Answer: request for pre-aps will be published on October 1st. There will be ~6 weeks for pre-applications to be submitted. Reviewers’ names and email addresses will be needed by ~November 10th. But, if you don’t get them in by the 10th, keep sending in names, because they can be added at any time.

n. Question: Who could NOT serve as a relevancy reviewer?

Answer: anyone at a University is not eligible to be an industry representative. Casey, Debbie, Shannon, Clint could serve, as they are not part of the University enterprise. Scientists who work in private industry would be eligible to serve as relevancy review. Brand managers would be eligible to serve. Adjunct and affiliate faculty who work in industry would be eligible to serve ~ there would be conflict of interest guidelines to adhere to . . . but as long as the person is not primarily at a University.

2. Communication and Recruitment

a. Recruitment of Chairs and Committee Member (All):

i. Shannon is chairing the NGO committee. Tom will work to support Shannon, perhaps as an ‘interim ghost co-chair’.

ii. Cynthia Haynes and Dave Close are co-chairs of the environmental committee.

iii. NICH will only be as good as we are at succession planning ~ bringing on great people who can lead this effort into the future.

iv. Margaret Pooler is serving as interim chair of the government/academic committee. With Tom’s help, they will recruit additional USDA researchers (ARS, NRCS, etc.). We need to get University Deans/Directors on the committee.

v. Suzi is setting up a conference call with Charlie Hall. Casey, Suzi will talk to Charlie about the overall NICH goals.

vi. In the Mid-Atlantic region, there has been great response to NICH from GWA.

vii. NICH and Seed the Future made their way into Garden Media Group’s upcoming TRIM report.

viii. Question: is there a cap to the number of folks on committee? And, are we looking for folks to serve on subcommittees?

Answer: at the moment, we’re in active recruitment mode, so there is no cap on participation (at the moment).

ix. Question: what are we asking committee members to do?

Answer: the job description and the charge, we hope that it became more clear from Tom’s presentation. Folks can help us craft the strategic plan, and can also participate in the industry relevance review (if they are eligible).

x. Question: are we asking them to participate in a regular conference call? Or to respond to written text? Or to travel for NICH?

Answer: at the moment, participation in a conference call, and to respond to text. Committee members will participate in putting together a strategic plan for each goal. Chairs decide how to work with committee members to develop an action plan.

xi. For the economic committee, Debbie has been talking to folks about this effort, at about 1.25 hours per conversation. She’s recruited 2-3 people to serve on the economic committee. Because folks don’t know who we are, it takes a lot of time to educate potential committee members. Debbie’s plan is to assemble a good group of people who can help develop an action plan. Time invested in getting these good people is fairly substantial.

xii. There could be value to having a separate call to talk about recruitment, so that we have a wide and organized reach.

b. Discuss and finalize One-Pager (Casey and All): we worked to revise the one-pager.

Decisions Made: The final language of the one-pager was approved, and the one-pager sub-committee is moving it to the design phase.

c. Tom Underwood’s list of upcoming events (attached) ~ make sure your event is on the list.


Next Conference Call: August 23, 2016, 10am ET / 9am CT / 8am MT / 7am PT.

Leave a Reply