BOISE-University of Idaho's president-elect met with many of the state's farm leaders Jan. 10 and told them he recognizes how important the farming sector is to the state's economy.
"It's clear that agriculture is very important to this state and I look forward to working with you on that," Chuck Staben said during a visit to the Idaho Wheat Commission building, which also houses several other farm groups.
Staben, who takes over the university's helm on March 1, met with about 35 people representing multiple commodities, including sugarbeets, onions, beans, potatoes, dairy, beef, sheep, apples and cherries.
UI agricultural economists recently released a report showing that agribusiness is the state's top sector and is directly or indirectly responsible for 20 percent of total economic output and almost 123,000 jobs.
"Agriculture is central to the state of Idaho and so many people have jobs that depend upon agriculture; it's clearly a central aspect of life here," Staben told the Capital Press later. "I think the University of Idaho has helped and can continue to help the agricultural economy of Idaho stay strong."
Farm leaders said they were encouraged to hear Staben say he recognizes how important agriculture is to the state.
"It was reassuring to hear that and we're looking forward to working with him," said Wyatt Prescott, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association.
Beef is the state's second-largest farm commodity in terms of cash receipts and dairy is No. 1.
"I liked how the president stressed the importance of agriculture to both the university and the state, his willingness to get to know everyone and to help us with our various projects," said Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead.
Prior to being named UI's new president in November, Staben served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of South Dakota.
According to a university news release, he formerly served as the associate vice president for research at the University of Kentucky and was also a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and at Chiron Research Laboratories.
"His strong background in research is going to be very helpful for agriculture in Idaho and for our natural resource based industries, too," Olmstead said.