Executive Director’s Message

I hope all are having a great summer. I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to the cooler temperatures of autumn and the return of football.

Summer is always one of the busier seasons for the IR-4 Project (IR-4) and this year did not disappoint. Some highlights of what happened in the last several months and what is coming up shortly is below:

  • In early August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released grant funds for IR-4 research in 2022. For the first time in over 12 years, we have additional operational funds! We are working to distribute funds to the regions and researchers as quickly as possible.
  • IR-4, in cooperation with Michigan State University, have closed the IR-4 North Central Region Analytical Laboratory. Significant thanks to Laboratory Director Sue Erhardt, and the laboratory team, for their professional handling of a difficult situation and their dedication to IR-4 for many years of service.
  • A virtual Industry Technology Session was hosted by IR-4. During this session, we provided our industry partners an opportunity to provide an update of their new pest management technology and suggest areas where their product may provide relief to critical specialty crop pest management voids. This year’s session boasted 20 presentations; many of the recordings can be found on the event webpage.
  • Representatives for the IR-4 Biology and Regulatory Science teams have met with many of the registrants to exchange updates on the progress of ongoing IR-4 studies, as well as to identify new opportunities for future cooperation.
  • IR-4 continues to have meaningful dialogue with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a variety of subjects that impact IR-4’s efforts to support the registration of crop protection technology for specialty crops. One item, of particular importance, is how EPA is going to handle Endangered Species Act requirements for IR-4 submissions.
  • IR-4 has made employment offers to two new staff members who will be joining IR-4 Headquarters in early September. These new hires round out the team at the IR-4 Headquarters (HQ) at NC State, replacing those who did not relocate when IR-4 HQ was closed in New Jersey. Many thanks to those who participated on Search and Selection Committees as well as NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Human Resources staff.
  • Congratulations to…..
    • Michelle Samuel-Foo – formally IR-4 Southern Region Field Coordinator, has been appointed as National Program Leader at USDA-NIFA for IR-4.
    • Nicole Soldan – was recently appointed to North Central Region Field Coordinator.
  • You will be missed…… Friends and associates who have announced retirement or have  transitioned into retirement
    • Stephan Flanagan – Associate Western Region Field Coordinator
    • Ann George – Commodity Liaison Committee
    • Michael Horak – Western Region Field Coordinator
    • Bob Simerly – Commodity Liaison Committee
    • Dave Trinka – Commodity Liaison Committee
  • IR-4 received two relevant reports over the last several months. Michigan State University Center for Economic Analysis completed an economic assessment of IR-4. The report concluded that IR-4’s efforts contribute $8.7 Billion to the annual Gross Domestic Product. Please see our news release about this important report and the Executive Summary. The other report was from the ad hoc Path Forward 2.0 Committee, who examined IR-4’s procedures and processes. Numerous sound recommendations were made to help IR-4 improve its operations.
  • In an effort to modernize IR-4 systems while maintaining existing compliance systems, IR-4 is piloting an electronic field data notebook. The electronic notebook would replace the paper version and would expedite and enhance upstream review and utilization of data and information. The system should help identify “Fatal flaws” such as calibration errors in real time to prevent delays in completion of studies.
  • This year, IR-4 is preparing to return to an in-person priority setting Food Use Workshop, September 13-15 in Bloomington, MN. We are anticipating approx. 125 people participating in person and another 50 who cannot travel joining us via Zoom. Funds have been allocated to support 53 new residue studies in 2023. This is up from recent years but still far less than a decade ago. For details on the workshop, visit our event webpage.
  • The Commodity Liaison Committee and the Friends of IR-4 continue to work hard to advocate for increased funding for IR-4. The House of Representatives has proposed a $500,000 increase for 2023. Unfortunately, the Senate is proposing to maintain the 2022 funding level. The final number will likely be delayed until after the 2022 mid-term elections.

It has taken significant collective effort and resources to accomplish the items above. We thank everyone for your continued support and encouragement.

Jerry Baron, PhD

Executive Director

The IR-4 Project