Representatives of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) recently returned from a hectic trip to Washington, D.C., where they met with the state’s legislative delegations. CAFE’s volunteer champion Ken Nicewicz along with Extension educator Sonia Schloemann held annual “CARET” meetings with Massachusetts legislators in early March to discuss the work of the Land Grant units at UMass Amherst. The Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) is an organization of volunteer grass-roots supporters of the Land Grant University system that helps promote the interests of the universities and meets with legislators every year in Washington, D.C.
Nicewicz and Schloemann met with Congressman Jim McGovern to discuss current issues and to thank him for his ongoing support of extension and research programs, especially related to nutrition and food security. Nicewicz and Schloemann also met Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Joe Kennedy and spent time talking with legislative aides from various offices about key projects and concerns within the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) and its USDA-supported units, UMass Extension and the Mass. Agricultural Experiment Station. Each legislator was given a “High Impact 2017” report, an annual summary of major CAFE initiatives.
Nicewicz has served as the University of Massachusetts representative to CARET for 18 years. An active fruit grower and farmer from Bolton, Massachusetts, he is appointed by the dean of the UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences. Nicewicz’s goal is to meet with the state’s Congressional leaders to discuss the benefits of the Land Grant University system, a system that has elevated U.S. agricultural research, extension and teaching since its inception over 150 years ago. One of the most important tasks he undertakes, with great success, is building solid relationships with our representatives so they understand the vital importance of supporting the broad agricultural work of the University.
Schloemann, a long-time extension educator and small fruit specialist, shared concrete examples of how combined support from federal, state and industry sources allows Extension to both respond to emerging issues and to develop longer-term strategies to support agriculture and green industries within the Commonwealth. She made the point that increased funding will help keep pace with coming needs that will result from increased population, climate change, challenges to food safety and security, changing energy infrastructure, as well as the need for environmental protection. UMass Amherst has a history of being on the forefront regionally and nationally in several of these areas. Increased state/federal funding support for UMass Extension was identified as among the key actions needed by the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, which was developed by a broad coalition of stakeholders in the state.