Dairy cows

Cows feed at a dairy near Kuna, Idaho. American dairy farmers, distillers and drug makers have been eager to break into India, the world’s seventh-biggest economy but a tough-to-penetrate colossus of 1.3 billion people.

The University of Idaho will move ahead with the design and construction phase of the country’s largest research dairy following a $1 million donation by the J.R. Simplot Co.

That donation brought the university’s commitment to the project to $10 million, matching the $10 million state appropriation – which the state has now released to the university.

The research dairy is the foundation of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, a $45 million project that’s been more than a dozen years in the making.

“The university is grateful to the Simplot Company for helping us release this funding and to the state of Idaho for its commitment and support of agriculture and out dairy research,” Scott Green, University of Idaho president, said, in a press release.

Simplot supports the project given its focus to improve sustainability of agriculture across southern Idaho, Scott Simplot, chairman of the company’s board of directors, said.

Michael Parrella, dean of the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said CALS is extremely pleased to reach this milestone.

“Our partnership with the dairy industry and a wide range of other groups to plan and fund this project underlines its importance to Idaho agriculture,” he said.

The CAFE project was stalled for many years by a recession but was reinvigorated in 2017 with a plan to acquire the $45 million needed from the university, industry and the state.

Earlier this year, the university and Idaho Dairymen’s Association partnered to purchase land near Rupert to build the research dairy. The release of appropriated state money will boost the project further.

“It’s definitely gaining momentum at a rapid pace, and it’s exciting to see what’s been a conversation for over 12 years finally come to fruition,” Rick Naerebout, Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO, told Capital Press.

IDA is still working with the university to raise funding to complete the project, he said.

The university plans to seek approval from the Idaho State Board of Education in December to begin design work on the research dairy. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2021, with completion in 2023.

Research has already begun on the dairy site to establish an environmental baseline for future research.

In addition to the research dairy, the project includes the CAFE Discovery Complex, an education and outreach facility that will include a public visitor center. The university purchased land for the complex in June.

The project also includes a food-processing pilot plant for education and research in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho.

IDA’s primary focus is on the research dairy, Naerebout said.

“For us, the environmental research component of the project has always been our focus,” he said.

IDA is thankful for the support of the university and Dean Parrella, he said.

“It’s exciting to see our land grant university have that much support for animal agriculture,” he said.

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