UI ag college seeks $1.5 million more from Legislature
BOISE — The University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will seek an additional $1.5 million in ongoing state money when the 2014 legislative session begins next month.
If lawmakers approve the request, some of the money would be used to hire an additional potato researcher and a barley agronomist.
CALS lost $5.7 million in ongoing state funding after 2009 due to the recession and is on a five-year program to restore $5 million of that money, said Rich Garber, director of industry and government relations for the college.
He said the reduction in funding had a big impact on CALS, which includes the university’s nine agricultural research and extension stations across the state.
“It had a significant impact,” Garber said. “It impacted our operations and our ability to fill vacant positions.”
The cuts took 22 percent out of CALS’ ongoing budget, said Donn Thill, director of the college’s agricultural research stations.
“They were devastating. I can’t think of another word for it,” he said.
The reduction in funding resulted in deep cuts at all the research stations and put the college in a situation where more than 90 percent of its state allocations were used for salaries and benefits.
“That left very, very little for operational expenses at the research and extension centers,” said Thill, associate dean of research at CALS.
Of the additional $1.5 million in state funding CALS is seeking in 2014, $1.2 million of it would be used for operational expenses.
“There was an awful lot of deferred maintenance at the research and extension centers so there’s a lot of catching up we’re trying to do,” Thill said.
Some of the money would also be used to hire two staff positions to support the potato and barley researchers.
CALS received an additional $1 million from Idaho lawmakers last year and $650,000 of that was used for operational expenses while $350,000 was used for one-time capital outlays, including a new feed truck for the dairy at UI’s Moscow research station.
Getting much of the money that CALS lost after the recession restored has been a major priority for many ag groups, including Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
“The research stations around the state have been vital to the development of agriculture and the continued improvement of agriculture in the state,” said IFBF spokesman John Thompson.
“The scientists they have are top-notch and they’re doing good work that specifically pertains to Idaho crops and the disease and other problems we have here,” he added. “We think it’s money well spent.”