Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Puerto Rico Joins the National Association County of Agricultural Agents

       On Tuesday, December 1st NACAA Southern Region Director, Lenny Rogers, with the assistance of Florida County Extension Director and Puerto Rican native, Jonael Bosques landed in Puerto Rico with the mission of learning about and trying to unite the Puerto Rican Agents’ Association and NACAA.  
The first stop was the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Cooperative Extension Service office in Moca where Professor Edrick Marrero, County Extension Ag Agent, welcomed them and outlined the next two days of visits he would lead them in.  One of the main initial visits was the UPR, Mayaguez where they visited with the Agriculture Dean, Dr. Raul Macchiavelli and several other agriculture faculty, including professors and Extension specialists.  Afterwards they then traveled to the Lajas Agriculture Experimental Station where Professor Anibal Ruiz greeted them and then led them on a tour of the vegetable, fruit tree and rice demonstration plots.  Surprisingly one of their major pests in the produce plots are invasive green iguanas (Iguana iguana) native from Central and South America. These creatures have no predators in the island and can get up to 6 feet in length! 
From there over the next day and a half they met with several UPR Extension Agents and visited beef, dairy, plantain, breadfruit, banana, pineapple, orange, lemon, papaya, coffee and other type farms.  The banana growing/harvesting process is amazing.  During the growing season, they bag the huge bunches of bananas with perforated plastic white bags while still hanging on the tree and insert pheromone cards for repelling insects.  Then during the harvesting process these huge bunches are cut, transported and then hung on huge hanging rolling racks.  Here then smaller bunches of 4-7 bananas are cut off, dropped in a cleaning water solution, then lifted out, placed in plastic crates where dried and then moved into large cooling units until shipped. 
The coffee production process was also very interesting.  Here the bushes were hand-picked, placed in baskets, hauled to the processing area, a machine then removed the pulp from the bean, then the beans were dried in a heated forced air chamber, then air dried on racks, then moved on into the coffee bean roasting oven.  Once the beans were roasted they were ready to be ground and sold. 
The final day, Lenny Rogers and Jonael Bosques both spoke to all of the Puerto Rican agents in Arecibo at the Puerto Rico Agriculture Agent Association Annual Meeting.  Outgoing president, Professor Karen Bengoa, Extension Agent from Yauco, welcomed them with open arms and truly embraced their visit.  Here through the Puerto Ricans bi-lingual ability and through a power point translated in Spanish, thanks to Florida Agent – Elena Toro, Lenny and Jonael were able to communicate quite well with the group.  They shared the many benefits of being a member of NACAA:  awards programs, scholarship program, poster contest, professional development, county agent magazine, webinars, etc.  Then they shared more detailed information on last year’s AM/PIC in Sioux Falls, SD.  Last year there was over 400 hours of professional development offered via multiple presentations, 28 different educational agricultural tours, 17 different educational agribusiness sponsored lunches, and much more.  Many pictures were also shared of the 2015 AMPIC. 
The agents in Puerto Rico received the invitation openly, several wanted to pay their dues and join that day.  Dean Raul Macchiavelli and Extension Director Luis Mejia-Maymí, both present at this annual meeting, were very supportive of the agents joining NACAA.  They agreed to find funds to assist some of their members attending our next AM/PIC which will be in Little Rock, AR this year. 

Since the efforts in December by NACAA, the new Puerto Rican Agents’ Association President, Professor Irving Rodriguez has submitted a letter to the NACAA Board, requesting their acceptance into our National Association.  On January 13th the NACAA Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve The Puerto Rico Association of Agricultural Agents as an official National member.  We are excited to have them on board and we look forward to a long and beneficial relationship in the future.  

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