Remarks by Eric Barron, Ag Progress Days Legislative Luncheon

Wednesday, August 13, 2013, 11:45 AM
Special Events Building, Rock Springs

Welcome to Ag Progress Days, Pennsylvania’s largest outdoor agricultural exposition.

It's a pleasure to be here and to experience Ag Progress Days first-hand. Yesterday I heard a lot of commotion in my office suite, and it turned out that one of the administrators was sharing some of the deep fried mushrooms he bought here. Based on the staff response, I can assure you, we are very supportive of the wonderful Ag Progress Days tradition, especially the food!

In that spirit I wish to thank everyone who has worked in support of the agricultural community. Special thanks go to Barb Christ, who has served so effectively as interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences for the past two years. She has been steadfast in her commitment to advancing our programs to benefit our students, faculty, staff, and the larger agricultural community.

Please join me in thanking Barb for her outstanding work on behalf of all of us.

Barb will continue to serve in her current role until October 1st when Dr. Richard Roush will assume the post of dean of the College. He will be joining us from down under, where he is currently the dean and a professor at University of Melbourne’s School of Land and Environment. He is an entomologist by training, and he will bring extensive experience in leadership and administration. I look forward to introducing him to you in the coming months.

In the meantime, I would like to share some of the ways Penn State has been working on behalf of our agricultural community, the Commonwealth and the world. First, I’m pleased to announce that after a five-year hiatus due to funding cuts, the Governor’s School of the Agricultural Sciences was reinstated this year. And it was an incredible experience for 40 of Pennsylvania’s best and brightest high school students.

For five weeks, the participants explored such areas as animal and plant sciences, food science, engineering, environmental and natural resource conservation and community awareness. Historically, a large number of those elite students enter the College of Agricultural Sciences, so the Governor’s School is an excellent tool for introducing young people to careers in the agricultural sciences.

I wish to thank Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania Department of Education for reinstating the Governor's School for the Ag Sciences and for securing funding for 2015 as well. Please join me in giving them a round of applause.

Thank you.

Farm safety has long been a priority among Penn State educators and researchers, and this spring, Nationwide Insurance gave our safety education a boost with a $1 million gift to create and endow the Nationwide Insurance Professorship in the College of Agricultural Sciences. It is the first endowed professorship of its kind in the college.

Dennis Murphy, distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering, has been appointed as the first holder of the Nationwide Insurance Professorship, and funds will provide him with resources to expand research, teaching, outreach efforts and best safety practices. In fact, he’s running several farm safety demos at Ag Progress Days.

I believe Dennis was going to stop by this luncheon – Dennis, can you please stand a moment to be recognized?

Another area of strength for the College has been entrepreneurship and innovation. The College is a partner in the recently launched, university-wide entrepreneurship and innovation minor, which is gearing up to begin its second academic year this fall.

Earlier this year, Earl Harbaugh, a college alumnus and strong benefactor of entrepreneurship and innovation education in the college, and his wife, Kay, endowed the first Trustee Matching Scholarship to benefit Ag Sciences students enrolled in this minor.

In addition, the College recently awarded five Research Applications for Innovation grants -- known as RAIN grants -- which provide financial support that enables faculty to realize the commercial potential of ongoing research projects. The ultimate aim is to stimulate economic development through transfer of technologies to the marketplace.

This year, the Penn State Research Foundation is providing a $1 match for every $2 awarded to the grant recipients, underscoring the University's support of and commitment to this initiative.

One of last year's RAIN grant recipients, the Penn State Cover Crop Interseeder, which also won a Ben Franklin TechCelerator award in 2013, is being displayed and demonstrated at Ag Progress Days.

Another example can be seen in the “living furniture” venture, which is currently being displayed in the Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building. The Green Towers exhibit was designed by the winning team from the 2012 Springboard contest, which was sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences. The team will offer a presentation at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the College Exhibits Building Theatre.

Finally I want to note that the College’s efforts to protect our water supply has attracted national attention. In January 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $2.2 million grant to create the Center for Integrated Multi-scale Nutrient Pollution Solutions. The new Penn State center will combine existing research efforts with new studies and programs to tackle the vexing problem of nutrient pollution and its effects on watersheds, particularly the Chesapeake Bay basin.

These are just a few of the accomplishments of the College’s hard-working faculty, students and staff. I hope you share our pride in their work, because your support has been essential in realizing their potential.

On behalf of Penn State, I offer my appreciation for your continued support for our students, faculty, staff and land-grant mission.

Special thanks go to our Agricultural Advocates, who have made it their mission to preserve and protect Pennsylvania’s agricultural heritage and future.

And please join me again in thanking everyone who makes Ag Progress Days possible.

Thank you.