WSU seeks more federal funding for key ag programs
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The decision by Congress to extend the 2008 Farm Bill is "devastating" to funding for several programs at Washington State University, says Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.
The extended bill does not include funding for programs like the Clean Plant Network, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Bernardo, who is also WSU's vice president of agriculture and extension, said.
Total federal funding for the programs has averaged $5 million to $6 million per year to WSU over the life of the Farm Bill. Without reauthorization of the funds, significant reductions will occur, Bernardo said.
Reduction of federal funding will impact all programs beyond specialty crops, Bernardo said, as the university attempts to meet payroll and find funding for the future.
"It's a worst-case scenario that we didn't think was going to happen," he said.
The university will work with its congressional delegation to convey the importance of the funds to Congress, Bernardo said.
The university's state legislative priorities include letting a salary freeze lapse June 30 and obtaining new funding to increase competitiveness. Average WSU faculty salaries are 15 percent below a state-selected peer group, The gap will grow to 22 percent by the end of the 2013-2015 biennium if no action is taken, according to the university.
WSU is also seeking $7.2 million to establish four research teams to develop new strategies to combat infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
Agricultural priorities are limited to capital requests, Bernardo said. They include requests to the state for $500,000 for the predesign of the Plant Sciences Building and $225,000 for the predesign of plant growth facilities, both in Pullman, Wash., and $3.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively, for expansions of the viticulture and enology building and the ag tech building in Prosser, Wash.
The university is seeking $5.3 million for design of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic and Research Facility.
WSU is seeking $55.2 million in the capital budget to construct the Clean Technology Laboratory Building to house research teams. The teams are making advances in sustainable design, air and water quality and advanced materials.
WSU President Elson Floyd recently joined presidents from other public colleges in the state in offering a tuition freeze if lawmakers would restore $225 million in state funding to higher education.
Bernardo said any potential impact on ag research is unknown.
"Obviously, eliminating the possibility of further cuts to WSU state appropriation is a positive," Bernardo said.
Success for the university during the legislative session depends on finding funding for the programs, Bernardo said.
"The budget is tight, so it will be tough sledding to fund capital projects," he said.