The 25th annual Texas Plant Protection Association Conference held last week in Bryan, Texas, offered university and industry leaders an opportunity to appreciate accomplishments of the last quarter century but also provided a chance to lay the groundwork for what needs to happen for U.S. agriculture to continue leading the world in food and fiber production.
Texas A&M officials praised the conference for its three-pronged approach to assessing and solving problems, an approach that includes industry, Extension and Research leaders.
“I reflect back on this conference and remember participating in the early years,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, Vice Chancellor and Dean, Texas A&M. I have a lot of fond memories.”
It was the structure,” Hussey said, that made the organization and the conferences successful. “TPPA Conferences brought together producers, associations, industry, university faculty, USDA, Extension and Research under one venue to talk about all the crops in the state. Participants discussed yield and quality of food and fiber crops.”
That commitment continues.
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Dr. Doug Steele, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director, told attendees the agency is extending knowledge and providing solutions.
“We think of Texas as urban,” he said. “We’ve got a great rural population that doesn’t have access to services. “
Approximately 80 percent of the Texas population lives within seven AgriLife Extension and Research centers. “One of the greatest challenges is translating what we do in rural areas to the urban population,” he said.
The agency’s resources are needed more than ever to solve water, food security and healthcare needs of Texans.
“Those won’t be solved without agriculture,” he said.
Partnerships will play a larger role in providing needed funding.
Dr. Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, said the agency is grateful for the state and federal funding it receives, though it was not spared budget reductions in past years. However, Nessler said the agency has established partnerships with companies “built to the interest of our faculty” to carry out cutting-edge research and “assure those breakthroughs are getting to consumers.
“What is not unforgiveable to our researchers is not having enough money to do their work,” he said. “What we try to do is present opportunities for them to get their research funded.”
Nessler said Texas offers a variety of opportunities to “test new things.” With Extension and Research centers stationed in a variety of growing regions across the state and with different environments makes AgriLife Research attractive to prospective organizations looking to partner in testing potential technology, he said.
TPPA officials said the 25th conference marked one of the most successful in history, second in attendance only to the first meeting.
Executive Director Bob Sasser reports attendance at 281, up from 246 last year. “Ray Smith (Chairman of the Board) said we had 300 plus at the first conference. We also had a record number of sponsors, 43, compared to 37 last year,” Sasser said. “We also had a record number of posters this year.”
BlairFanning, Texas AgriLife Extension, also contributed to this article.