Eliminating faculty positions may limit ability to win grants
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Oregon State University's statewide public services may have to eliminate 30 faculty positions under Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposed 2013-15 budget, according to College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Dan Arp.
Arp, who is director of the college's Agricultural Experiment Station, said loss of the positions will mean fewer grant dollars for the college and less research for Oregon farmers.
"Any time we take a decrease in our budget, we have fewer people able to write grant proposals, and that ultimately is going to have an impact on the number of dollars we can bring in," Arp said. "And with fewer dollars available, we'll have less capacity with which to address the concerns of Oregon farmers."
College of Agriculture scientists last year brought in $51 million in federal grants and contracts, Arp said.
Total research expenditures for the university last year were $282 million, he said. That figure includes money provided by commodity commissions and private donors.
Arp said the university may be able to eliminate the positions through attrition, given that the three statewide public services typically lose about 30 faculty members through retirement or relocation in a two-year period.
Combined with budget cuts the last two sessions, however, loss of the positions is significant, he said.
"This is not as dramatic or severe as it was two years ago, but it is still significant," Arp said. "And we just want to be done with cuts.
"We want to be in a place where we are starting to at least be able to maintain, and then hopefully start to rebuild," he said.
Lawmakers have decreased state funding for the university's three statewides each of the last two legislative sessions, including cuts to the Experiment Station of 7.2 percent in 2009-11 and 7.8 percent in the current biennium.
Dating back 12 years, funding for the OSU Experiment Station, Extension Service and the Forest Research Laboratory has dropped from $46.9 million in 2000 to $46.5 million last year. Accounting for inflation, the decline amounts to more than $11 million.
Under the governor's budget, the Experiment Station will receive $51.8 million in general funds in the next two-year budget cycle, the same amount it received in the 2011-13 biennium. The Extension Service is holding at $37.5 million, same as in the current biennium, and the Forest Research Laboratory is holding at $5.7 million.
State funding for the overall Oregon University System is increasing 7 percent, a bump administrators say is necessary to maintain existing service levels.
"We're saying, we're part of the university system," Arp said, "and we're hoping to get our fair share of that 7 percent increase."
Ben Cannon, education policy advisor for Kitzhaber, said the governor is not abandoning research and other on-the-ground efforts to help farmers.
"I think this would be a mistake to see this as some sort of abandonment by the state," he said. "The state is continuing to make a commitment to the program."
But, he said, the governor is focusing on student education.
"In an era of scarce resources, we chose to focus the (7 percent) increases on programs that most directly impact students and less on research," Cannon said.
Oregon farm representatives are hoping to convince lawmakers to align the statewides' budget with the rest of the Oregon University System in the budget they send to Kitzhaber.
"We're going to do all we can to get that budget where it needs to be," said Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council and a lobbyist for the Oregon dairy and small woodlands industries.
"The Experiment Station and Extension Service are very important to all agricultural groups, and it is very disappointing that they get unfunded," Beyer said. "They do a lot of research and a lot of field work that no one else has the expertise to do."