A $1 million donation has pushed the University of Idaho past the halfway point for funding its new $8 million meat science facility, slated to open in 2023.

Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said the university has raised nearly $5 million for the Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard, primarily from stakeholders.

The center will be on UI's Moscow campus.

The latest donation comes from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing projects that benefit Idaho. Foundation president Harry Bettis is a lifelong southwestern Idaho rancher, according to the university.

“The best lessons I learned were through working," Bettis said in a UI press release. "We’re excited to help students learn about real, practical things through on-the-job training and to provide new opportunities to students and the industry."

In April, Boise-based Agri Beef donated $2 million to the project. Other major donors, including Northwest Farm Credit Services, have also contributed to the project.

The university is contacting other industry stakeholders to help support the building, Parrella said.

Dairy and livestock represent more than 50% of the state's agricultural economy.

"The research that will be done here will support those industries," Parrella said. "We'll have the capability of training more students, so it's a bigger facility, greater opportunity."

Those students will get jobs within and contribute to the industry, Parrella said.

The facility will also serve as one of few USDA-certified slaughter facilities in the Pacific Northwest under UI's Vandal brand meats, benefiting smaller local producers, Parrella said.

"We look at it as a partnership with the industry," he said. "This is going to have statewide and national implications when it's completed."

According to UI, the new facility and retail center honors Ron Richard, who led the development of Vandal brand meats during his 30-year career with CALS. His vision is reflected in the design of this new facility. Richard died in fall 2018 as plans to begin a fundraising campaign for the project were formalized.

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