Tour demonstrates university's value
Members of business group see wheat breeding, animal health programs
By MATTHEW WEAVER
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Spokane agriculture business leaders toured Washington State University's animal health and wheat breeding programs during a recent field trip here.
About 25 members of the Greater Spokane Inc.'s AgriBusiness Council learned about the significance of the programs while looking over the university's new Allen School for Global Animal Health, veterinary hospital and a greenhouse used to grow plants for the wheat breeding programs and genetics research.
Jay Allert, council chair and CEO of Aslin-Finch, said the tour will likely turn into an annual event.
"We wanted to expose WSU and the great asset it is to the industry," he said. "We want not only the business community, but the general public to know that."
The partnership between the council and the university will also likely expand.
Bryan Slinker, dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said the tour helped to raise awareness of the university's research into food safety and its impacts on global and U.S. animal health.
"Greater Spokane Incorporated is a major force in the area for industry and commerce," he said, noting he had received inquiries about possible projects or services from tour members. "For the most part, this was building awareness of our strength to important stakeholders in the region."
Rich Koenig, associate dean and director of WSU Extension, hoped to connect the work at the university with what business community members see as they pass by a farmer's land.
"What people see is the result of lab, greenhouse and a lot of other efforts prior to that plant ever making it out to the field," he said.
Koenig said the university could benefit from a partnership by garnering industry partnerships and support for initiatives that enhance the ability to breed wheat faster.
For Oakesdale, Wash., farmer Jack Silzel, former Washington state director of the USDA Farm Service Agency and a member of the council, the tour represented an opportunity to unify the agriculture and business communities.
At an agribusiness event earlier in the year, Silzel said members were amazed at how little people understood about agriculture. Education helps more people understand the issues, such as removing the "ominous" thought from discussions of genetically modified organisms, he said.
"I think we can partner with some of these perceived as urban organizations and really widen our impact on government and legislation," he said.
Greater Spokane Inc.: www.greaterspokane.org