Budget cuts impact Research & Extension Centers

Published online: Jan 18, 2011 University of Idaho
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THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO'S STATEWIDE SYSTEM of research and extension (R&E) centers continues to provide the state's agricultural producers with research and information needed to help keep agriculture-Idaho's biggest economic sector-thriving. The way the system operates some 15 locations throughout Idaho continues to evolve, said Donn Thill, assistant director of the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station at Moscow, with oversight of all R&E centers. State cuts in 2009 and 2010 to the Agricultural Research and Extension Service budget led to major changes at three centers including Parma, Tetonia and Sandpoint. Tetonia R&E Center now operates as a research farm with supervision provided from Idaho Falls and Thill in Moscow. To cut labor and other costs, its operations now use less than a third of nearly 600 acres. Tetonia now gets support from Idaho's barley, potato, and wheat commissions because of the station's importance to their growers. Operations are suspended at the Sandpoint R&E Center while a community task force considers possible future uses. Parma R&E Center provides the most optimistic example of that evolution. Parma's importance to Idaho's No. 1 industry led Simplot, the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition, and fruit growers to contribute some $400,000 a year to the station's operations in 2010. J.R.Simplot Co. held a field day in June to feature its research for representatives from 17 nations. The Simplot field day focused on its own research plus that of SFP, an industry partner. In addition to the $300,000/year five-year Simplot commitment, fruit growers are contributing $30,000 annually for five years, and the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition contributed $65,000 in 2010 and 2011. Statewide, R&E centers are increasing their efficiency. "We're actively changing our operations to match available funding," Thill said. "We try to make changes that do as little damage as possible to our core missions." "The foundation for our advances starts at these UI research centers," Simplot agronomy manager Terry Tindall said in June at Parma. "The Simplot Company depends very much on third party, independent researchers like those at the University of Idaho to help support, direct, and provide validation for its science-based agricultural research." CONTACT DONN THILL at dthill@uidaho.edu; also learn more about UI CALS research at www.uidaho.edu/cals/research