Thursday, July 9, 2009

Research Continues in Parma

U of I President Duane Nellis and Idaho Governor Butch Otter meet. Jake Putnam photo

Parma Research Center to Stay Open--For Now

PARMA — Gov. Butch Otter and University of Idaho President Duane Nellis announced Wednesday that they will delay the decision to close the Uof I Research and Extension Center in Parma.

That decision comes after Idaho Ag groups voiced opposition to the proposed closure. With a tight U of I Budget and even tigher state budgets the agriculture community wanted more time to come up with alternative funding.

Otter said he knows how important the research center is to Idaho agriculture but says budget issues must be addressed. "We've been working on cutting budgets all over the state," he said. "Part of that painful process is making difficult decisions."

The decision to delay closure came during the annual Treasure Valley Ag Tour, which had just come from a tour at the Parma research center.

"We decided yesterday to take a step back," said Otter. "We need to take a good look at what we need to do, how it's going to come out, I'm not prepared to say but we're committed to do the best job we can."

"We recognize the vital role and impact of agriculture in this state, and for the state's land-grant university," said President M. Duane Nellis. "Given the current budget situation, and my newness to the university, the governor and I agreed on the need to take additional time to conduct a more thorough review of the Research and Extension centers statewide."

The announcement came during a joint appearance at the university’s Parma Research and Extension Center.As part of the enhanced review, the university will assess the cost benefit, viability and impact of its statewide Research and Extension operation.

Simultaneously, the university will look at engaging the agricultural industry and others to partner collaboratively with the university to ensure the success of all its Research and Extension centers. Ongoing dialogue regarding the possible closure of two or more centers is the direct result of legislatively mandated budget reductions – a $3.2 million reduction in state funding for Agricultural Research and Extension Service for fiscal year 2010.Idaho is not alone in facing the possibility of significant restructuring in Agricultural Extension service. Oregon State, Utah State, Washington State and other universities with Extension missions are facing similar difficult situations and decisions.

Discussion about the University of Idaho Research and Extension centers began in January with state leaders and others with a stake in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Idaho's agriculture industry. Conversations started in late March with a statewide committee whose 19 members represent diverse backgrounds and interests.

In addition, the university consulted widely with many of its partners in the agricultural community about what it faces and continues to welcome ideas about how to continue its research and Extension mandate in ways that can accommodate its challenging financial situation. This new review phase will build upon the foundational analysis and work of the earlier committee.

The Research and Extension centers operate on 4,000 acres statewide, including locations at Aberdeen, Caldwell, Dubois, Salmon, Hagerman, Kimberly, Moscow, Parma, Sandpoint, Tetonia and Twin Falls.

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