CALDWELL, Idaho — Idaho Bean Commission members voted unanimously Oct. 17 to pursue a $1 million endowment that would fund a bean research program at the University of Idaho.
Commissioners didn’t hash out the details of the endowment but thought it was important to start work on the plan so they could garner input from growers and dealers.
Their 7-0 vote was “to get the ball rolling and begin informing industry and growers of our intent to formalize and finalize this agreement with the university, maybe at our next meeting,” said IBC Commissioner Bill Bitzenburg.
The commission has discussed the possibility of an endowment for the past year, and Bitzenburg said he was probably the most skeptical commissioner when it came to the idea.
But he said he is now convinced that a research endowment with the university is the best way to ensure the Idaho bean industry’s continued viability.
“I’ve come full circle on this endowment,” he said. “The endowment offers us the best leverage for our money. It’s an investment by growers and dealers for the future of Idaho’s bean industry.”
UI’s past bean research has greatly benefited the state’s bean industry, Bitzenburg said. “I think we need to continue that and this endowment does that.”
A $1 million endowment would result in an increase in the assessment fee growers and dealers pay to fund the bean commission, though the exact amount hasn’t been decided.
The assessment is 8 cents per hundredweight for growers and 4 cents per hundredweight for dealers.
The details of the endowment and any assessment increase will likely be finalized during the commission’s Nov. 8 meeting in Boise.
IBC Chairman Doug Carlquist said commissioners still need to sell the endowment idea to growers and dealers and that will include some type of survey or referendum.
If industry agrees with the idea, the commission will formally ask Idaho lawmakers during the 2014 Legislature for authority to increase the assessment.
IBC Commissioner Don Tolmie said it was important for the commission to “get some intent going here” so growers and dealers could provide feedback on the plan.
The results of a grower survey earlier this year showed that producers want the commission to focus its efforts on pest and disease research first, followed by the development of new dry bean varieties.
The commission received the surveys back from 200 of the state’s estimated 560 bean growers.
Growers were clear that they want the commission to focus more of its money on research, said IBC Commissioner Lorell Skogsberg.
“We need to be more responsive to our constituents and put more money into research,” he said.