UArizona president launches commission to fortify the future of agriculture and food production

Lettuce grown in Arizona

Arizona ranked second in the nation in lettuce production, providing 30 percent of the country's total production in 2022, after California.

Faith Schwartz

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins is forming the Presidential Advisory Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Food Production in a Drying Climate to address challenges to agricultural production and food and economic security in the state and around the world.

"As a rapidly drying climate threatens food and agriculture systems around the globe, Arizona's agriculture industry will need innovative solutions to continue producing food and other goods year-round for the state and beyond," Robbins said. "From leveraging transformative agricultural practices to enhanced data tools for rapid analysis of challenges and changes within agricultural and food production, research-based solutions will be critical. Our ability to be agile and resilient in the face of this challenge affects not only agricultural production and food security, but also the economic vitality of our rural communities."

The commission will include UArizona faculty and staff and will consult both internal and external experts and stakeholders. They will provide Robbins with a set of recommendations on concrete steps the university can take to help make Arizona a global leader in creating and applying transformational technologies and climate-resilient sustainable agricultural and food production practices, in partnership with the desert agriculture industry.

The commission aims to:

  • Summarize the threats of drought and climate change to Arizona's agricultural production systems, with an emphasis on food and a robust agriculture economy.
  • Conduct a comprehensive and constructive review of the expertise and resources that can be brought to bear on the problem.
  • Provide recommended actions for UArizona to address the issue and turn the threats into opportunities.
  • Identify stakeholders who will support and grow these efforts on an ongoing basis.

"With the mandates of our land-grant mission, and hundreds of expert researchers and a multitude of world-renowned programs that can be brought to bear to address this challenge, the University of Arizona is uniquely positioned to address this critical problem for Arizona's agricultural production system and, by extension, for other arid regions around the world," Robbins said. "I am very excited about this initiative and its potential."

Paul Brierley, executive director of the UArizona Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, will serve as commission chair.

The efforts of the commission are expected to grow rapidly as it engages internal and external stakeholders in focus groups, discussions and workshops. This week, Robbins invited the following faculty and staff to join the commission:

"Drought, climate change and a burgeoning world population threaten the agricultural industry, food production and security and the livelihoods of many. Solutions we explore through this important commission will be applicable not only in Arizona, but in many other drying, increasingly arid and underserved regions around the world," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation at UArizona. "The resulting innovations will help people and our communities become resilient and learn to thrive in the face of climate change."