Idaho bean group creates $1 million research endowment

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Any increase in Idaho's dry bean assessment fee to fund a $1 million research endowment at the University of Idaho won't take place until 2015 at the earliest.

BOISE — Idaho Bean Commission members have voted to create a $1 million endowment that will fund a bean research program at the University of Idaho.

But an increase in Idaho’s dry bean grower and dealer assessment fee to fund the endowment won’t take place until 2015 at the earliest.

The commission had planned to ask Idaho lawmakers as early as 2014 for authority to increase the assessment fee, which is 8 cents per hundredweight for growers and 4 cents for dealers.

However, commissioners have now decided to wait until the 2015 legislative session. That will give them time to conduct a grower referendum or survey on a proposed assessment increase.

Commissioners voted 7-0 in October to start promoting the endowment idea to industry so they could get feedback from growers and dealers. During the IBC’s November meeting, members voted 5-3 to create the endowment.

Commissioners were divided..

Some preferred continuing to provide funding to UI researchers for specific projects on an annual basis. Others argued that creating the endowment would be the best way for the commission to leverage the money it gives the university.

The endowment will lead to UI committing more resources to bean research long-term, said commissioner Bill Bitzenburg.

“It’s prohibitively expensive doing it piecemeal,” he said, and added that UI’s release of public bean varieties is one of the main reasons there is even a bean industry in Idaho.

“We have an obligation to growers … to protect that ability to get public seed,” said Don Tolmie, who also voted for the endowment.

But other commissioners feared losing control of the money once it’s in the university’s hands.

An endowment advisory committee made up of an equal number of university and bean industry members will offer advise on how the money should be spent but the dean of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) will have the final say on how it’s used.

“We need it spent where growers need it spent, not where the university wants it spent,” said commissioner John Dean. “Why can’t we pay for the research as we go? I’m still not seeing the benefit of giving $1 million to the university.”

CALS’ assistant dean of development, Kim O’Neill, told commissioners that deciding how money from the endowment is used will be a true partnership between the university and bean industry.

“The university isn’t going to award this money without agreement from the commission,” she said.

UI officials told IBC members the endowment can be created now and be contingent on the commission getting authority to increase the assessment.

IBC Chairman Doug Carlquist said the details of the endowment will be hammered out over the IBC’s next couple of meetings.



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