BOISE — The University of Idaho’s ag college dean told farm industry members that UI’s proposed $45 million dairy research center would benefit all agriculture and its long-term impact will be profound.
Fundraising goals for the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) need to be met by June, and he encouraged them to consider helping the project financially.
The project is a heavy lift but the university is making good progress toward meeting the fundraising goal, Michael Parrella, dean of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, told Food Producers of Idaho members Feb. 7 during their weekly meeting.
UI received $10 million from the Idaho Legislature for CAFE last year and hopes to obtain $5 million in state funds next year.
UI sold some of its assets to raise $15 million for the project and needs to raise $10 million from outside sources. Realistically, that $10 million needs to be lined up by June, Parrella said.
“I think we’re making good progress and we’re going to do that,” he said. “2018 is a critical year in terms of the fundraising component, (and) we are moving forward very aggressively with fundraising.”
He said the university needs farm groups’ moral support and added, “It would be nice to think there is some financial support behind that as well.”
Parrella said dairy research will be a big focus of CAFE, but the facility will also conduct research that will impact every aspect of agriculture.
“CAFE is dairy centric but it’s a lot more than just dairy,” he said.
A central theme of the center will be water efficiency and protection and “water is a central theme to agriculture everywhere,” he said.
Parrella said CAFE will conduct dairy-related research on lagoons, nutrient management and surface and water management, which have been the subject of recent lawsuits.
“Those issues are not going to go away. CAFE will directly address those issues,” he said.
The center will also conduct research on forage cropping and agronomy, soil health and fertility, production management, food safety, labor management, animal genetic improvement, precision agriculture, commodity risk management and food science and manufacturing.
“It’s relevant to more than just dairy. It’s much, much broader than that,” Parrella said. “There is something in CAFE for everyone.”
Rich Garber, director of governmental affairs of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, encouraged fellow FPI members to consider how they can support the center.
“I really think this is a rising tide that can lift all of our boats,” he said. “This is an opportunity we are not going to have again. I hope we take it very seriously.”
While addressing the House Agricultural Affairs Committee Feb. 9, Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson encouraged lawmakers and the agriculture industry to support CAFE.
“That center will do a lot more than dairy,” she said.
Olson said the IBC board of directors will consider supporting the center financially when it meets in a few weeks “and other ag industries should step up as well.”