Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ag News

College Considers Planning Process For Closure of Research and Extension Centers

MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will involve faculty, staff and stakeholder groups around the state in its planning for the proposed closures of research and extension centers.

The college and University of Idaho Extension operate 12 research and extension centers throughout the state, and another based on the Moscow campus that oversees nearby facilities.
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Hammel outlined the proposal during a recent presentation to the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance - Appropriations Committee.
Hammel said the college plans to form a planning committee with broad membership from internal and external groups interested in the research and extension centers to help the college's leadership assess the options.

The college will await legislative action on the state's agricultural research and extension appropriation, which is not expected until late March, before the college finalizes its plan.
Hammel said the college's leaders reviewed all available options before arriving at the proposal. The controlling factor was the agricultural research and extension budget is mostly dedicated to salaries. Only $3.3 million in operating funding is available to fund maintenance, program support, capital outlay and travel.

"We have little flexibility in our operating budget and we must not continue to markedly erode these resources," Hammel said. "Doing so will severely limit our capability to adequately support our existing research and extension programs, many of which are already underfunded, and to address future priorities driven by the changing landscape of Idaho agriculture, communities and our clientele."

The closure of two or more centers is the college's proposed response to expected cuts totaling 7 percent or $1.94 million in the college's agricultural research and extension appropriation from the state for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1.

In addition to the center closures to save approximately $1 million, Hammel said the college planned to eliminate 15 vacant faculty and staff positions to save $800,000 and cut travel budgets by 25 percent.

In a memo last week to the college's faculty and staff, Hammel said no centers have been chosen for closure and the process to determine which centers would close under the plan has not begun.
Hammel said he will seek recommendations from those within the college and university and those who rely on the centers to keep Idaho agriculture healthy and competitive.

"We must stress that no centers and programs are currently targeted and that we have not yet initiated the review process," Hammel said.
Some of the criteria that will be used to evaluate the centers will include:

*Current and future relevance
*Impact on industry and the specific industry sector affected by closure
*Program priorities across Idaho
*Potential partnerships or collaborations to meet need.

The list of criteria is not final, nor are the exact parameters that will govern the decisions, Hammel said, adding, "We will communicate the finalized review process and the criteria by which these actions will be determined."

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