Director’s e-Memo │June 12, 2017

85th Texas Legislative Session Overview
While the regular session of the Texas legislature concluded with the Governor immediately calling for a special session beginning July 18, for most state agencies the good news is that Senate Bill 1 (the bill that provides State General Funds for the next biennium) passed before adjournment.  The Governor has until June 18 to make his final decisions about the budget, which includes signing it into law, letting it pass into law without a signature, or a line item veto. In the meantime, we are closely reviewing language (riders) contained in the final bill and some specially funded items granted to Extension. Look for more detailed information once the Governor has completed his work on the budget.

At this point we anticipate that we will be able to manage our next biennium budget with minimal loss of full time positions (due in part to vacancies, some fund balance carry-overs and expanding partnerships). However, to address the longer-term issues of limited funding, the desire for increased salaries, and the changing needs of our communities, planning is underway for how AgriLife Extension should be positioned to ensure a lasting and viable future (more on that below).

The one consistent theme that we heard throughout this legislative session was the valuable role that Extension fulfills in counties and across the state. It is impossible to discuss the positive difference that Extension has on Texas (and beyond) without the measurable impacts you are making daily.  We are indeed fortunate to have this network helping Texans Better Their Lives.

Extension 20/20 Visioning Advisory Committee
As we plan for the future of this agency, we must be cognizant of the changing needs of the communities we serve, the expectations of our stakeholders, and the resources we have available to fulfill our mission. We have an opportunity to position our agency for unprecedented success. But it is essential that we focus our agency work on our strengths and where we have a competitive advantage in the view of our clientele.

To this end, we are convening an Extension 20/20 Visioning Advisory Committee to provide feedback and insight on staffing and programming to Extension Administration in developing a long-term plan for the agency. We anticipate the work of the committee to start late summer and have a report back to Administration by the end of the year. I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm and innovativeness of the discussions that have already been taking place and am confident that the future of Extension is bright.

Know the System Policies Before You Fly an Unmanned Aircraft
Due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight and increased commercial application of Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones), the Texas A&M System has instituted new rules and regulations governing their use by students or employees. These new regulations apply to all faculty, staff, students, contractors, visitors and third party vendors when operating UAS and model aircraft on any System property or by an employee in their work capacity.  To provide additional background information before employees participate in UAS projects, the Texas A&M University System has approved regulation 24.01.07, Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Please note that all system and member employees (including AgriLife Extension) are responsible for complying with FAA regulations, state and federal laws, system policies and regulations, and member rules and procedures. Any employee wishing to operate a UAS as part of their Extension employment or as part of an Extension program must first receive approval and a determination from the UAS supervising authority as to whether it will fall under a public operations definition or if the activity will fall under Part 107 civil operations.

Any violations of this regulation by an employee will be dealt with in accordance with applicable system policies and procedures, which may include disciplinary actions up to and including termination.

Another Successful 4-H Roundup
Congratulations to all who worked tirelessly to pull off a successful 2017 Texas 4-H Roundup last week.

Bryan/College Station hosted more than 4,000 4-H’ers from across the state to compete in in approximately 50 diverse competitions and receive more than $2.4 million in scholarships. From robotics challenge to livestock judging, and from scholarship awards to talent concerts, the week was packed full of events, competitions and celebrations. Many thanks to all who were involved in planning, chaperoning and managing the events and throngs of enthusiastic Texas 4-H youth.

Univision & Healthy Texas Kick-off
Last week Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Vice Chancellor and Dean Mark Hussey and Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp helped us launch the inaugural episodes of our Healthy Texas segments on Univision San Antonio. (see the Chancellor video here: http://chancellor.tamus.edu/videos)

Healthy Texas related topics will be presented as part of Univision San Antonio’s nightly evening news four nights a week from June through August, plus weekly compilation shows each Saturday. The segments will be branded Texas A&M Healthy Texas and may feature many Healthy Texas staff and volunteers. This is a great opportunity for us to not only reach a broader and more diverse audience, but also showcase the great work that you all are doing in South Texas.

Douglas L. Steele, PhD
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
600 John Kimbrough Blvd., Suite 509
7101 TAMU, College Station TX 77843-7101
Tel. 979.845.7967, dsteele@tamu.edu
Rebekah See-Hruska, Assistant to the Director
See-Hruska@tamu.edu

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