At the request of our administrative team at IR-4 headquarters, I am resuming my quarterly letter to keep you updated on the latest news and happenings here at the IR-4 Project. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to sign up for our email distribution list to receive the latest information as it is announced. I also encourage you to visit our website and check out our recently redesigned homepage. This is one of many website improvements we are launching in an effort to improve our communications. Many thanks to our national information and communications officer, Jennifer Heiss, for her work on this endeavor.
I am extremely proud of the IR-4 research and regulatory team as they “survived” the past 16 months under restrictive COVID-19 environments. People stepped up and worked above and beyond to keep our operations going. In some locations we did not miss a beat. I want to send a special shout out to the remaining team at the Rutgers University headquarters. Not only did they have to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, but they also were directly impacted by the headquarters relocation to NC State University.
The transition of operations from Rutgers University to NC State University is in its final stages. In April of this year, the headquarters team moved into our new offices in the Venture IV building on NC State’s Centennial Campus. Most IT systems have been moved, including the IR-4 file server and custom eQA system. The majority of the paper files were moved in May with the remaining files scheduled to be transferred in early August. The existing team at Rutgers is working under the steady leadership of Debbie Carpenter to clean up remaining studies, files and the general office. The majority of the research and regulatory activities will be coordinated out of the NC State office until September when full operations in the Food Program (residue studies, efficacy/crop safety research, integrated solutions projects, and biopesticide regulatory submissions) are transferred to Raleigh. The Environmental Horticulture program will remain at Rutgers with Cristi Palmer.
Staffing at NC State is almost complete. Of our 25 headquarters positions, we are actively hiring two positions and three will be posted shortly. Special thanks to Rich Bonanno (former chair of the Commodity Liaison Committee and current director of NC State Extension), David Monks (associate director of research at NC State Extension and IR-4’s state liaison for North Carolina) and Michael Bledsoe (chair of the Commodity Liaison Committee) for countless hours reviewing CVs and participating in interviews. With their help and contributions by others, we have hired a highly motivated team that is rapidly learning their IR-4 roles.
The IR-4 Commodity Liaison Committee and Friends of IR-4 continue to work diligently to garner additional research funds for IR-4. Their hard work may be paying off. The President’s funding proposal called for $20 million in fiscal year 2022 for IR-4; an $8 million increase over the existing funding. The House of Representatives proposed a $2 million increase, bringing our funding up to $14 million. While we are thankful for this proposed increase, the House of Representatives funding proposal essentially only covers the indirect cost deduction now allowed on the IR-4 grant. There are very limited funds to cover the loss of purchasing power from over a decade of flat funding. The Commodity Liaison Committee is banking on the Senate to be more aligned with the President’s proposal. If you have any questions or need additional information, please reach out to me and I’ll connect you with the proper person.
As a reminder, research priority setting for 2022 starts shortly. On July 20, IR-4 will hold the 2021 Industry Technology Session where registrants will be able to share updates and present new and emerging technologies for pest management. The 2021 Food Use Workshop will be held on September 13-16. Research priorities will be established for 2022 food residue studies, efficacy and crop safety research, and integrated solution projects at this virtual event. The Environmental Horticulture team will also establish priorities at the 2021 biennial priority setting workshop on September 28-30. Visit the Workshops and Events section of our website for more details on these virtual events.
In closing, it is my honor and privilege to work with such an excellent group of scientists supported by a passionate group of stakeholders. As IR-4 reboots from the darkness of COVID-19 and completes transition of our operations, we will do our best to remain true to our mission; facilitating the regulatory approval of safe and effective pest management solutions for use by the grower of specialty crops and minor uses.
All the best,