Message from the Dean - Spring 2015

Dean Payne speaking at the UN Convention on Combating Desertification

Welcome to the spring 2015 issue of the CABNR Newsletter, in which we report highlights of the college and its overall mission to foster healthy food systems through innovation and sustainable agriculture. Healthy food systems and sustainable agriculture were very much on my mind recently as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Third Scientific Conference of the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification, held March 9-12 in Mexico. Desertification is a form of land degradation that occurs primarily in drylands of the world, including Nevada. Drylands cover 41% of the earth’s surface, two thirds of which are rangeland, and are home to more than 2.5 billion people, including most of the world’s poor.

Desertification is occurring today at unprecedented rates in the world in response to stresses associated with demographic pressure, inappropriate land management practices, and climate change. The U.S. legal definition of sustainable agriculture includes long-term satisfaction of food and fiber needs, enhanced environmental quality and natural resources, efficient use of nonrenewable resources, integration where appropriate of natural biological cycles and controls, and long-term economic viability of farm operations. Issues that threaten the sustainability of agriculture in Nevada include drought, fire, erosion, invasive species, and endangered species.

Healthy food systems are an essential part of food security, which the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations defines as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” By this definition, we in Nevada are not food secure, for one in four children lives in households that cannot reliably provide three nutritious meals every day; one in seven adults must regularly seek emergency food assistance; and one third of Nevadans are eligible to apply for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Moreover, prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents has increased over the past 25 years, with the percentage of young people who are overweight tripling since 1980. CABNR and NAES have research, teaching, and outreach responsibilities for nutrition and health that can directly impact this situation.