As a rapidly drying climate threatens food and agriculture systems around the globe, Arizona’s agriculture industry will need innovative solutions to continue producing food and other goods year-round for the state and beyond. From leveraging transformative agricultural practices to enhanced data tools for rapid analysis of challenges and changes within agriculture and food production, research-based solutions will be critical.
Our ability to be agile and resilient in the face of this challenge affects not only agricultural production and food security, but also the economic vitality of our rural communities. The imminent Colorado River crisis, for example, offers a window into the severity of the damage wrought by a drying climate. Without the economic activity based on the Colorado River and other rapidly dwindling water sources, Arizona's rural areas could experience mass out-migration to cities, creating major social upheaval for the state’s most underserved.
With the mandates of our land-grant mission, and hundreds of expert researchers and a multitude of world-renowned programs that can be brought to bear to address this challenge, the University of Arizona is uniquely positioned to address this critical problem for Arizona’s agricultural production system, and by extension, for other arid regions around the world.
With this in mind, I have formed a Presidential Advisory Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Food Production in a Drying Climate to provide recommendations on concrete steps the University can take to make our state a global leader in creating and applying transformational technologies and climate-resilient sustainable agricultural and food production practices, in partnership with the desert agriculture industry.
Paul Brierley, Executive Director of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, will chair the Commission which will include Dr. Joaquin Ruiz, Dr. Parker Antin, Assoc. Vice President Kim Patten, Dr. Sharon Megdal, Prof. Jim Buizer, Dr. Laura Condon, Dr. Sharon Collinge, Dr. Luisa Ikner, and Senior Vice President N. Levi Esquerra.
Drawing from experts across the university, and from the agriculture, food production, and water industries throughout the state and beyond, the Commission will:
- Summarize the threats of drought and climate change to Arizona's agricultural production systems, with an emphasis on food and a robust agriculture economy
- Conduct a comprehensive and constructive review of the expertise and resources that can be brought to bear on the problem
- Provide recommended actions for the University of Arizona to take to address the issue and turn the threats into opportunities, and
- Identify stakeholders who will support and grow these efforts on an ongoing basis
To do its work, the Commission will establish and convene ad hoc subgroups of UArizona faculty and staff, as well as external experts and stakeholders, to inform it on specific aspects of the Future of Agriculture and Food Production in a Drying Climate.
I am very excited about this initiative and its potential. By providing research-based, scalable solutions to address this critical issue for Arizona, we can not only ensure the continued productivity of our agricultural and food producers and keep rural economies vibrant, but also help other arid regions around the world facing similar threats.