LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) -- Parma Mayor Margaret Watson says supporters of the Parma Research and Extension Center in southwest Idaho are confident they have come up with a plan to keep the center open through June 30.

The university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has said extension centers in Tetonia in southeastern Idaho and Sandpoint in northern Idaho are also at risk because of budget cuts over the past two years.

The Agricultural and Research Extension Service budget has been reduced by nearly 17 percent, or $4.7 million.

The university said in October it was beginning the administrative process of preparing to close extension centers, including those in Parma, Tetonia and Sandpoint.

A coalition, which includes fruit growers who use the station to do research on their crops, has put together a plan that combines budget reductions and pledges from farmers and other groups, Watson said.

The measures add up to more than the $250,000 the center needs to survive the rest of the fiscal year.

"It's looking very positive," Watson told the Lewiston Tribune. "To be honest, I don't think (the university) ever imagined that we could come up with the funding."

University spokeswoman Tania Thompson said the ongoing discussions with various agricultural and industry stakeholders about the centers and their future were encouraging.

No agreements leading to additional funding for the centers have been finalized, Thompson said.

While the coalition believes it has come up with a plan to keep the center open through June, an advisory committee will begin work at the beginning of the year to find ways to continue keeping the center funded.

Some ideas being considered include a tax on growners who use the center and letting the university charge higher rates for the research and testing performed at the site, Watson said.

University officials plan to propose a budget for the centers at the state Board of Education's December meeting that could include closures, transfers or layoffs.

The Parma center had previously been scheduled to close by Dec. 31 because of cuts last year, but that was reversed last summer after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter criticized the university for not first consulting with the state Board of Education about the decision.

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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