PARMA, Idaho — An agreement between the University of Idaho and J.R. Simplot Co. that has helped keep the university’s Parma research and extension station open has been renewed.
Under the original five-year agreement, Simplot agreed to provide the Parma station $300,000 a year. In turn, Simplot gets access to 50 acres for field crop research as well as assistance from UI researchers.
The new agreement is for three years and the amount was increased to $330,000 a year. The extra money will be used to pay part of the salary of a IU plant physiologist who focuses on potatoes and onions and acts as a liaison between the two entities.
Both Simplot and UI officials said the shorter term of the agreement better fit the time frame of their business model.
“Three-year contract lengths are more of a common approach for us and this change has no bearing on how we view our relationship with the U of I and we look forward to continue our ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship,” Simplot Communications Manager Ken Dey told the Capital Press in an e-mail.
After UI’s ongoing research and extension funding from the state was cut by more than $5 million during the recession, the Parma station was targeted for closure.
The Simplot agreement, as well as smaller financial agreements with several farm commodity groups, helped the station remain open.
Donn Thill, director of UI’s agricultural research stations, said the agreement is working exceptionally well.
“It is providing the revenue we needed to keep the station open; I think it’s provided a good value to both us and to Simplot,” he said.
The new agreement lasts through 2017.
Parma station superintendent Jim Barbour said Simplot has been careful to ensure the independent research conducted there remains free from outside influence.
“Simplot has been so careful of that and it’s never once been an issue,” he said.
Simplot’s senior agronomist, Terry Tindall, said the partnership allows the company to use the Parma station as an outdoor research laboratory in its efforts to develop innovative products.
UI faculty and staff have conducted field tours each of the past five years that feature research and demonstration trials of new products Simplot wants to share with its North American and international customer base.
Several of Simplot’s customers first saw the company’s Avail and NutriSphere-N products demonstrated at Parma, Tindall said.
Some of those customers are using those products within their own countries and “much of the incentive to move forward in their own areas or countries was in part due to what they saw in Parma,” he said in an email.
Simplot is also conducting a long-term maximum corn yield study at the experiment station.
The Parma station is a leader in drip irrigation research, particularly in onions.
The application of fluid fertilizer into drip-irrigated onions is becoming a standard practice in the West, Tindall said, and “Parma allows (Simplot) to be at the cutting edge of this developing cropping systems approach to improve nutrient use.”