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).


  1. Thanks to Progressive Rancher article for commissioning this article. - The Author

  2. We are very grateful to the outreach work that has taken place, including the coverage given by the Progressive Rancher. Nevada agriculture's future research and educational needs are critically important and require us to be strong advocates, regardless of the decisions which will be made in the coming weeks and months. We need people to remain engaged and continue to work for accomplishing meaningful recognition for these needs no matter what type of structure will emerge from the process.

  3. Conservatives claim to be for property rights, yet also advocate laws against owning, buying, and selling certain products which they claim are "harmful." Conservatives, to their credit, tend to oppose the efforts of liberals (who make no pretense to being for property rights) to ban guns. Conservatives tend to advocate that the government steal less property in taxes than liberals.

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