Friday, May 2, 2008

USAIN 2008 Conference

2008 USAIN (United States Agricultural Information Network) Conference

Tradition in Transition: Information Fueling the Future of Agbiosciences

April 27 – 30, 2008 Wooster, OH

University of Florida is an institutional member of USAIN, an organization whose primary purposes are to promote discussion of agricultural issues and trends, to develop and influence national agricultural information policy, to make recommendations to the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and to increase collaborations between member partners ( USAIN does an excellent job communicating legislative changes to its members, and then working with members to get involved with state and national government.

The conference was hosted by Ohio State University and held at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, closely situated next to a beautiful arboretum and rose garden.

Here are a few of the most important highlights from the conference:

1. The AgNIC Born Digital Steering Committee, of which UF is a participant, met for the first time to begin phase I of the born digital initiative. Here at UF it used to be we would receive a copy of IFAS Extension resources, which we would catalog and make available in our print collection. Many Extension resources (documents, websites, etc) are now published only in digital format and while this format increases access to the current resources, many of these older resources are at risk of being permanently lost due to a lack of consistent preservation processes. This is a problem not just at UF, but at almost every land-grant throughout the nation. The goal of this steering committee is to identify digitization standards (selection, metadata, format, etc.) and to develop an infrastructure to assist the land-grants in developing their own processes at the local level. The other institutions participating are Univ. of Arizona, Ohio State, Colorado State, Texas A&M, Cornell, Univ. of Minnesota, Purdue, and potentially Michigan State and Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2. Mary Ochs (Cornell) Peter Ballantyne and Barbara Hutchinson (IAALD) spoke about Agbioscience information for the worldwide community. There is a strong need to "make research information easy to access for current and future generations" through common international standards, open applications, user friendly information & data, andlocal and global action . A large amount of agricultural information is created within the U.S., and we should do more to share that information with the international community. The result of this discussion was the creation of an International Agricultural Information Interest Group which will focus on the first steps of bringing in librarians from other countries to future USAIN conferences, as well as providing more Ag information on the USAIN website. Here is Peter Young - the Director of the National Ag Library - speaking about global collaborations:

3. Peter gave the NAL update, mentioning the new Blueprint for Success: The National Agricultural Library 2008-2012. Many of you may have seen in the Washington Post the article, A Precious Resource at Risk, about the drastic budget cuts facing NAL in the upcoming year. I believe it was at the last USAIN that I learned that the NAL has had a flat budget for the last twenty years. Somehow I didn't write down the percentage they will have to cut, but I believe it was either 40% or 60% - both staggering cuts. This will prevent the NAL from preserving their special collections, from buying print materials, from participating in Interlibrary Loan, and more. For more information, see the USAIN website for Lobbying Congress for Support.

Additional information related to the theme of the conference:

Many of the invited speakers spoke on biofuels, bioenergy/bioproducts, and sustainable farming, including David Kline, an Amish farmer and author/editor of Farming Magazine. Without going into too much detail, here are a few of the interesting things I learned from all the speakers:

  1. In the 1850’s ethanols were used for lighting, but in the 1860s-1906 an ethanol tax was enacted (making kerosene more competitive). The first ethanol fueled auto was the Ford Quadricycle (1896). The first flex-fuel car: Model-T (1908)!
  2. In 2008 there were 11 billion gallons of ethanol produced from corn. Unfortunately there are a number of issues related to: water quality, soil erosion, water supply, biodiversity, loss of grasslands, increase in feed costs. Also, corn is displacing other crops -- leading to food riots.
  3. The cellulosic biofuels (corn, switchgrass, MSW, forest residues, etc.) industry will grow rapidly in coming years. And will bring some very specific questions, such as how will supply chains develop (big issue), what are the implications for the food/feed/fiber markets, how will environmental issues be addressed, can we coproduce fuels and foods, and how can farmers and local communities benefit?
  4. Lastly, has been shown to increase smog and cancerous benzene emissions. Also, all current biofuels increase carbon dioxide emission relative to gasoline.

There was quite a bit more information available from all the speakers. If you are interested in reading the speaker presentations, they are available for download:

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