Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Fight to Save Nevada's Ag Future and CABNR

The Fight to Save Nevada's Ag Future and CABNR

By Julie Kay Smithson, property rights researcher, London, Ohio and

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) is one of America's 74 land-grant institutions(1) and the only one in the Silver State. A proposal announced March 1, was made to close one of UNR's ten colleges -- the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, or CABNR -- and reorganize remaining programs under the College of Science, in order to trim $11 million. The UNR is the sum of its parts: College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources; College of Business; College of Education; College of Engineering; Division of Health Sciences; College of Liberal Arts; College of Science; Extended Studies; Reynolds School of Journalism; and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.(2) In the current difficult economic climate, the need to downsize is understandable, but one college taking a forty percent hit is lopsided.

CABNR is one of UNR's ten academic units, but is "paying its own way" in many important areas (3), including an internationally preeminent publication, The Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis, February 2010 issue, which cover features the Department of Animal Biotechnology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, article titled: "Clinical and molecular characterization of a re-established line of sheep exhibiting hemophilia A" (4) which was developed at the Main Station Field Lab. Major strides in research are being made at CABNR. The value of stem-cell research alone is a jewel in CABNR's crown.

Part of the Academic Planning Process offers this justification for the authority to take such drastic action: 1. An administrative unit, project, program or curriculum may be discontinued, reduced in size, or reorganized for bona fide reasons pertaining to the University’s mission as a consequence of the Academic Planning Process, which has been approved by President Glick. ... 7. Any department that is the subject of a Proposal shall review the Proposal and, through the Department Chair, submit any data or other documentation supporting or challenging the Proposal (the Department’s Response) to the appropriate Dean and the Provost by March 26, 2010. 8. ... The College Review Committee’s recommendation and the results of the vote of the college faculty shall be sent to the Faculty Senate Chair and the Provost by April 9, 2010.(5)

The proposal's timeline:

1. The curricular review proposal is released Monday, March 1, 2010.
2. Units respond to proposed program closing by Friday, March 26, 2010.
3. Colleges respond and vote on the proposal by Friday, April 9, 2010.
4. The Faculty Senate reviews the proposal and other supplied information and makes a recommendation to the President and Provost by May 7, 2010.
5. The President and Provost make their final decisions and propose appropriate program closures to the Board of Regents by May 14, 2010.
6. The Board of Regents decides on program closures in early June.
7. Employees related to closing programs are notified of their termination by June 30, 2010, and provided with rights of reconsideration and notification.(6)

Provost Marc Johnson said that determining which programs or departments to cut was based on factors such as the number of degrees granted, enrollment in the major, scholarship productivity, external scholarship grant awards, how important they were to the university's mission and their national and international uniqueness.(7)

A March 12 telephone interview with Regent Dorothy Gallagher was troubling. She stated that it’s a misconception that agriculture programs at UNR could be completely eliminated. Rather, they may be restructured.(8)

Nevada's economy is fueled by "the big three" -- gaming, mining and agriculture, of which the number two and three are doing well, though gaming has suffered.(9) CABNR, with its structure of teachers' budget-based pay supplanted by grant awards, means the ag college truly does help pay its own way, a “gift that keeps on giving” in the form of research that benefits Nevada, the nation and the world.

The importance of CABNR to social networking websites was immediate: two Facebook Groups were established with a total over 4,000 members.(10)

Arguments about CABNR's safety being set forth in the Nevada Constitution -- ARTICLE 11, SECTION 4 Sec: 4. Establishment of state university; control by board of regents. The Legislature shall provide for the establishment of a State University which shall embrace departments for Agriculture, Mechanic Arts, and Mining to be controlled by a Board of Regents whose duties shall be prescribed by Law. . . . ARTICLE 11, SECTION 8[...] And the Legislature shall provide that if through neglect or any other contingency, any portion of the fund so set apart [for a college for the benefit of Agriculture[,] the Mechanics Arts, and including Military tactics], shall be lost or misappropriated, the State of Nevada shall replace said amount so lost or misappropriated in said fund so that the principal of said fund shall remain forever undiminished[.](11) -- are compelling, but the proposal appears to attempt to skirt that.


Interviews with students, alumni, parents, and Nevada's ranching community brought forth many reasons to oppose closing CABNR.

Tessa Sustacha, Senior in Animal science with a minor in wildlife ecology:

I have applied to Washington State University and Colorado State University Schools of Veterinary Medicine and am waiting to hear back from them about acceptance. I wish one day to practice as a veterinarian in a rural area, helping producers with herd health, wildlife disease issues as well as public health aspects of veterinary medicine. I chose CABNR for many reasons including that my dad, uncle and mom went to the University and CABNR. I also served as the Nevada State FFA secretary as a freshman and began my education at UNR. ... To me the college was affordable, offered the opportunity for scholarships and research, small class sizes and had a very well known pre-veterinary program with a reputation for turning out well-prepared successful applicants to graduate and schools of veterinary medicine. I am a 4th generation native Nevadan and I grew up in the Elko area. I was involved in 4-H since I was 9 years old and strongly believe in the power that 4-H has and the importance of the services that cooperative extension and the University provide to rural communities. ... Agriculture has always been a huge part of my life and I believe that the agriculture industry faces serious issues in educating the public due to the disconnect that is created in this country through the availability of a safe and affordable food supply. This is ... seriously put in jeopardy if agriculture is not included in the curriculum at institutes of higher education. For this reason alone -- and the fact that Agriculturists must be provided with support and education, as well as the overall importance of agriculture to Nevada -- I care a great deal about CABNR.

Erin Hourihan:

I graduated from CABNR in 2007 with a bachelor's in Forestry and Rangeland Management. I returned to CABNR in the spring of 2009 to get a Masters in Animal Science. ... As a Master's student ... I am understandably outraged and appalled by the decision to eliminate the entire college. CABNR contains an abundance of degree and research programs, some of which are internationally renowned. At UNR, researchers in the Department of [Animal] Biotechnology have made significant advancements in the area of stem-cell research. The Department of Resource Economics has also gained international recognition for many significant publications. ... I feel a very strong connection to this university and this college. The economy of the small town I'm from, Challis Idaho, is completely dependant on agriculture and natural resource-based industry. There are farmers and ranchers, loggers and miners. Growing up, I saw how land management decisions -- made by people with no connection to the land -- affected these people and it greatly influenced my higher education choices. My mother is from a longtime ranching family in eastern Nevada. I chose to attend college in her home state for a variety of reasons. I knew I wanted to study natural resources; Nevada provided the perfect place to do this. As a master's student, the Great Basin provides unlimited research opportunities that are second to none. If the powers that be succeed with their plan to close the CABNR at UNR, a vast amount of learning opportunities will be lost. I am deeply saddened by the collateral damage that has already occurred as a result of President Glick's decision. Many well-regarded professors are looking for employment elsewhere, because they don't feel the University values their talents. This is not to say that all the good professors are leaving! I am very grateful to those that are staying, taking the risk, because they have no way of knowing how long they will have a job. ... It is imperative to stress the multidisciplinary focus of a degree in Forestry or Rangeland Management. The ability to gain employment after graduation is not dictated by the institution at which you choose to study, but a list of qualification standards determined by federal government land management agencies. These standards include specific course requirements. In addition to 18 course hours in specialized range management classes, the course requirements explicitly require 15 credit hours of courses in directly related plant, animal and soil science. Classes that fulfill this requirement include plant taxonomy, plant ecology, livestock production, and animal nutrition. Due to the fact that UNR has a severely limited plant science department, Range students rely heavily on the animal science department to meet the qualification standards for professional and scientific positions. The proposed curricular review states that one range ecology position will be moved into Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in order to preserve the range management program. However, a degree resulting from a program void of all animal science related courses will be inadequate and will therefore do a disservice to its students. The systematic attack on CABNR will not just affect students studying animal science, pre-veterinary medicine and resource economics. It will also make getting a valuable degree in Range Ecology or Range Management impossible in a state where approximately 46 million acres of rangeland is facing habitat sustainability, urban sprawl and invasive species issues. Currently students wanting a degree Range Management from UNR are limited in their options. As a graduate student conducting research in Range Ecology, my major appears on my transcripts as Animal Science. This is because the majority of the Range professors on campus, teach in the department of Animal Science. This should speak to the interrelatedness of the two disciplines. Streamlining should not include destroying the positive elements of what currently exists. Instead we should focus on irrelevancies that could be eliminated and additions that will improve the degree program drawing students to this university ... This college has been an important part of my life for the last eight years.

Kaley Volk, CABNR student and the to-be-cut Animal Science Major:

I am a freshman trying to obtain my Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary Medicine (dual) major here at the University of Nevada, Reno. ... My hope is to one day be a large animal veterinarian, perhaps starting with the USDA and eventually working my way to opening up a private practice. ... UNR is the only school in the state of Nevada to offer agriculture and animal science programs (in relevance to a degree) and agriculture is in the top three list of income for the state to casinos and mining. CABNR's closing is purely based of student numbers, and because there are less students in the ANSC (Animal Science) programs and CABNR, they are letting go the wrong people on a matter of numbers. It is not about the quantity, but the quality. And seeing that Nevada needs specific students trained in agriculture and (especially) large animal veterinarians, in a few years down the road we will no longer have local people to fill those much needed positions, but have to look outside our own state and recruit others in, costing more money and time. The major financial cut of CABNR is taking its biggest hit on students in the field right now, who either have to change their life goals now or move elsewhere.

Doug Busselman, Executive Vice President, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation:

The contributions of Nevada farm and ranch families, economically, socially and in all other fashion, is part of not only the heritage and value structure of rural Nevada, we are also going to play an instrumental role in the future of what Nevada will become. Although UNR officials believe that we are insignificant enough to be disregarded as part of their future, we refuse to accept their rejection as mattering. ... Nevada agriculture does matter!

Harvey Barnes, Barnes Ranch, Jiggs, Nevada:

"I'm not speaking for the rest of the board, but as a rancher and a graduate of the College of Agriculture a long time ago. I realize the economic situation of our state, but I think the proposal to close a complete college such as CABNR is going way overboard. ... If they close the college of agriculture, the properties and the facilities on them in the Reno area will be gone. The Valley Road facility is very close to the campus. The Main Station Farm is just a couple of miles away and I think that was a real plus for the UNR Ag College students. ... At the meeting on March 11 ... I was a little disappointed in what [Provost Marc Johnson] had to tell us. I gathered that his mind was made up. ... Agriculture, with our processing industries, some farming, and cattle ranching, we're still a $2 billion industry."

Kelly Cook-Bell:

I wonder if anyone has taken into account how this type of decision will weigh on our numerous FFA organizations in Nevada? What is this decision telling our kids and agricultural families in Nevada?

Jean (last name withheld by request):

I received a MS from the Resource Economics Department in 2000 when I was 45. It has been an invaluable degree for me, raising my income significantly and allowing me to work as an economist for the USDA. I first worked for the Economic Research Service where several colleagues were aware of the faculty at UNR. While a small department, the faculty is top notch and their reputation is probably how I got the job. Now I work for the Farm Service Agency's national office. I'm allowed to sit in California and telework every day because of my good skills learned at UNR.

Sharon Hay:

I'm shocked this extremely important aspect of the college is being closed, especially when ecology, biofuels, etc. is a highlight of the Obama administration, our nation & the world. ... I hope the university alters its stance.

Mike (last name is withheld by request):

With this decision, we are not just losing students, but also renowned research professors and the notoriety they bring. ... My brother, my wife and I all attended UNR. If this decision is final, I will be looking for other institutions to send my three children.

Mike (last name withheld by request):

My daughter is a freshman in the Pre-Vet CABNR program. She has thoroughly enjoyed her education and college experience. Her end goal is to attend a school of veterinary medicine, which we felt UNR gave her an outstanding chance to do. It is still unclear to me what level of education she will be losing based on this proposal. ...My assumption is she will miss out on the true hands-on experience of working with animals and she will miss being taught by experienced pre-vet teachers. She will now be attaining a general science degree that she can get at almost any university. If this is the case, and with ultra competition to be accepted into Vet school, we soon will be considering other colleges to meet her goal. This is very unfortunate for all involved.

What you can do

An immediate letter-writing campaign to the two individuals below is needed. Mailing addresses, fax numbers and email addresses have been provided. State your reasons for keeping CABNR open, being sure to mention your affiliation with CABNR, including CABNR graduates whose careers are an enhancement to their communities and Nevada's economy. Each family member should write his/her own letter; the numbers must prove the importance of CABNR to Nevada.

Dr. Milton Glick, Office of the President, University of Nevada, Reno/001, Reno, NV 89557-0016. Fax: 775-784-6429

Marc Johnson, Provost, University of Nevada1664 N. Virginia St., Reno, NV 89557-0208. Fax: 775-784-6220

At stake, from the proponents' view: A savings of $11 million, plus over 1,000 acres of prime real estate in the Main Station Farm, a possible underlying motivational factor.

At stake, from the opponents' view: Custom and culture, the only agricultural education in the state, a small -- but nationally and internationally significant -- degree program, and much more. The plan to close CABNR would have an immediate and irreversible impact on Nevada and agriculture; the two are inextricably woven into the state's economic and educational fabric.


1. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) formerly the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and "About the Land-Grant System"

2. Office of the Provost, University of Nevada, Reno

3. Letter from Acting Dean Pardini, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno

4. "Clinical and molecular characterization of a re-established line of sheep exhibiting hemophilia A," The Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis, February 2010

5. Academic Planning Process, Application of NSHE Code Sec. 5.4.6

6. Curricular Review Proposal and Timeline

7. Media Announcement, March 1, 2010: Colleges, Programs Subject to Academic Planning Process notified today - University begins process to meet mandated 6.9 percent cut of state-funded budget

8. "Regent Gallagher Appears Before Elko Co. Commission" KENV Channel 10 Elko, March 12, 2010 and and "Locals weigh in on possible ag cuts", Elko Daily Free Press, March 13, 2010
9. NevadaWorks - Community: Nevada Jobs and Nevada Workforce Development and Nevada Division of Water Planning: Nevada State Water Plan, Summary, Section 4: Socioeconomic Assessment and Forecasts

10. Facebook Groups: Save CABNR (both groups have the same name)!/group.php?gid=338361652366&ref=ts and!/group.php?gid=331883620793&ref=ts

11. The Nevada Constitution

Article citation: "First published in the April/May 2010 issue of Progressive Rancher Magazine" on pages 18-19.

3,069 words.

Article may be reprinted / posted so long as it remains intact, including all links. Three interviews were not included in the article, but have been left intact (above).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Hairy Reed - Satire

The Hairy Reed - Satire

March 18, 2010

By Julie Kay Smithson

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has received a petition to list the hairy reed as an artificial species under the Artificial Species Act of 2010 (ASA).

The petition was submitted by a representative of the Lake Las Vegas Deepwater Marina Authority and stated, in part, that the hairy reed is often "in over its head" when dealing with environmental issues.

Baking in the Clark County summer sun is a possible habitat behavior that may be contraindicated by the species' single recognizable specimen and its tendency to inhabit a seemingly contradictory habitat: The District of Columbia.

The hairy reed may be recognized by its propensity to sway in the wind, but also has certain characteristics reminiscent of predatory plants like the Venus flytrap, opening for fresh meat and then slamming shut. Such activity usually goes on behind closed doors, so is, at best, only suspect behavior.

Sightings of this species include press conferences, photo-ops, and political events, the latter being the most probable place to successfully spot the hairy reed, especially during election years.

Whether NDOW will seriously consider listing the hairy reed as an artificial species remains a mystery.

The ASA mandates that a bovine excreta study (BES) be done to determine whether the hairy reed should be listed. Several universities have, however, applied for grant funding to monitor and track the hairy reed.


Smithson is a property rights researcher living with her Blue Heeler dog, Wiggles, in the Amish and Mennonite farm country near London, Ohio. Visit her websites: Contact her at

Sunday, March 7, 2010

We Still Need You, Klamath Farmers

We Still Need You, Klamath Farmers

March 7, 2010

By Julie Kay Smithson

Nine years after the historic call for help emanated from Klamath Falls, Oregon -- a call answered by Americans from all walks of life and places as distant as Ohio, over 2,200 miles east -- another crisis looms. Those in positions of power are grinning from ear-to-ear at "historic signing ceremonies." They chortle with glee at how their "collaboration and "consensus-driven stakeholder process" has been "inked."

Those few letter writers who continue to stand against the removal of the four dams on the Klamath River -- and the three Oregon elected officials who've never wavered in their stand to protect the promises made to those on the Klamath Project -- are being marginalized by a media that seems to have had its loyalty bought and paid for.

The voices of the original lottery winners have been largely silenced by age and death, but their descendants' voices may have been silenced by deceit and coercion.

No dictionary perused online or in hard copy has yet to yield synonyms tying words like "independence," "versatility," "freedom," "property rights," "resource utilization," etc., to "collaboration," "consensus," "stakeholder," etc.

There are some situations where agreement between factions can never be reached. One such situation was the lords and serfs of Europe. Those that chafed under the heavy hand of the land-LORDs had few options and none that involved remaining in their native lands. A small number of these moxie- and hope-filled, courageous souls set out from "the other side of the pond" on a journey to America, a place about which they had heretofore only known in dreams. The perils known to these immigrants were many -- from dying aboard ship from a wide variety of maladies, not the least of which was malnutrition, dysentery, etc., to surviving the journey only to perish before emerging from the indentured servitude which had purchased their passage to a new land.

The settling of America was fraught with untold dangers. Starvation happened to pioneers. So did dying of thirst or succumbing to fevers and diseases for which there were no easily-procured remedies. Getting to America's eastern shore was tough enough. Making it all the way to Oregon required many more of God's blessings and much privation. The Western Migration required something in the way of promise in order to lure men to leave their safer, but poorer, homes in the East. Those married men that made the journey had to scrimp and save in order to book passage for their families to join them. Single men had to first conquer places -- "stake their claim," as it were -- before they could dream of marrying and raising families. Viewing old photographs of these settlers is looking into faces made tired and old by the demands made to simply survive.

The Klamath Project was a promise, from the federal government to the lottery winners / war veterans who sought to make a forever home in the Klamath Basin of northern California and southern Oregon. Both sides promised something. The federal government, in far-off Washington, D.C., promised the winners of these Project Lands water "in perpetuity" in exchange for the promise to transform unproductive high desert land into productive, thriving farm and ranchland. The high desert of this region presented its own brand of challenges. Not only was it dependent upon snowpack for irrigation water during the growing season, but it was also a place where the temperatures meant frost in virtually every month. Growing food crops was not as easy as it was for farmers in the Midwest, who had a more temperate, longer growing season and more abundant rainfall. The promise of water in exchange for the promise to wrest fertile food-growing was inextricably entwined. It was not possible to deliver economic prosperity through farming and ranching, without the promise of water "in perpetuity."

When did the government's promise of water get broken? That answer is not nearly as important as the fact that the promise WAS broken and continues to be broken, year after frightening, disheartening, soul-crumbling year.

Did the Klamath Project farmers ever break their promise? No. They never did. However, they can no longer raise food and fiber to feed and shelter America if the other promiser -- the federal government -- reneges on its promise. Now that four or even five generations of blood, sweat and tears equity have been willingly put into this place beloved to so many as simply "the Klamath," a government, with malice aforethought, has broken its promise and levied the ultimate fine upon the people of the Klamath Basin and Project: the cessation of agriculture, ranching and the vibrant economy of this most special place located in the high desert of the Pacific Northwest.

How can such a terrible death knell sound in such a place without the population raising a hue and cry the likes of which would carry clearly all the way to Washington in the District of Columbia? How, indeed. Language deception was truly a weapon of mass destruction, the likes of which is yet to be seen, but which is coming like a runaway freight train. Using words that these honest Klamath Project people had been taught to trust, their property rights -- in the form of their economic freedom and prosperity -- have been taken. Those drafting the "agreements" have an intimate, professional knowledge of how to word phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and binding agreements, so those whose rights are being "rurally cleansed" barely realize what is happening ... until it's a "done deal."

The volatility of the Klamath River -- sometimes a drunken sluggard filled with algae-growing warm water, sometimes a raging bull goring all in its flooding path -- needed damming. This place of temperature swings, inversion layers, frost and freeze, heat and drought, needed people with resilience, strength of character and the sticktuitiveness to make of the Klamath Basin a place that not only could feed itself, but could also feed much of a nation from its bounty. Klamath Pearl potatoes, horseradish, mint, onions, hay, beef, and so much more, were grown and harvested, supporting with quiet pride a place that began with a government promise and a lottery.

Perhaps none will dare call it a terrible crime, but crime it is, for in its wake, the "restoration agreement" will leave a place that once knew the caring and devoted hand of the farmer, the appreciation of the farmer's wife and children, who were able to buy yard goods and little luxuries -- and even college and businesses of their own! -- again barren and bereft of the fertile loins of the Klamath dirt, needing only water and hard, honest work to bring forth property rights and freedom.

A promise is a promise. A broken promise is a broken promise. Those who did not stand at the "A" Canal Headgates and drink in the sights, sounds and concentrated patriotism distilled in that place, can never know how great was the promise, how terrible the broken promise.

Surely at the last moment, more will see what has been done and move to rectify it. Surely God will once again smile on the Klamath Basin. Surely the promise must be made to stand and the promise breakers must not be allowed one more meal of Klamath Project-grown food.

Let them eat cake, but let them eat it somewhere else. They have no right to a piece of the pie that they never earned and never deserved.

Those brave farmers that voluntarily left the "A" Canal Headgates when 9-1-1 happened, kept their promise, even knowing the track record of other party that promised water for the Klamath Project "in perpetuity."

We in America need the Klamath Basin farmers, their friends and families to again unite. They have helped feed us, in America, for a hundred years. We cannot afford to have their voices -- and the Klamath Project -- silenced by broken promises. We need the food produced in the Klamath Basin, but perhaps even more, we need the backbone of those Klamath farmers, who quietly helped care for America, keeping their promise, for a hundred years.

1,351 words.