WSU, wheat growers seek support for new plant sciences building

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Jim Moyer, director of Washington State University's Agricultural Research Center, addresses Washington Grain Commission board members during the commission meeting March 12 in Spokane.

Washington State University agricultural college’s leaders are seeking legislative support for a new plant sciences building.

The proposed 100,000-square-foot plant sciences building and a 30,000-square-foot greenhouse are high on the list of university priorities, said Jim Moyer, director of WSU’s Agricultural Research Center and associate dean for research in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

The building would serve as laboratory and office space, bringing together plant scientists from crop and soil sciences, biological chemistry, plant pathology and horticulture.

The design phase will cost $6.6 million, Moyer said. The total cost of the building would be determined during the design phase. Moyer said construction would hopefully begin in 2017.

Capital projects typically get funds in three phases. Planning funds are provided in the first biennium, design funds are provided in the second biennium and construction is funded in the third biennium.

Washington Association of Wheat Growers and university representatives met with legislators on the building several weeks ago and hope to see funding for the design phase in the capital budget, WAWG past president Nicole Berg said.

Moyer provided an update during a Washington Grain Commission board meeting in Spokane.

“It’s highly needed,” commissioner Mike Miller said. Improved facilities will enhance the university’s ability to recruit top-notch scientists, he said.

Commissioner Dana Herron said the facility is critical to bolster WSU’s research capabilities.

“We are desperately short of lab space,” he said. “If you’re waiting six months to put your pots in a lab, you’re slowing research down. Our job primarily is to make sure those constraints are no longer constraints.”

The building would take pressure off of WSU’s Johnson Hall, where most of the university’s plant researchers work.

“Johnson Hall is about in the same shape it was when I was an undergraduate,” Moyer said with a chuckle.

“I always hoped I’d live long enough to see the day they tear Johnson Hall to the ground,” said Randy Suess, Whitman County representative on the commission. “Johnson Hall was designed before the days of computers, so wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling” all need to be upgraded. “It makes a lot more sense to move out of that dilapidated old building.”

WAWG will keep talking with state legislators about the importance of the building, Berg said.

WSU leverages state funds it receives with outside funding, Moyer said.

“It’s important we have the infrastructure to be competitive,” he said. “If we can’t do top-notch research, then we’re not going to be competitive for federal funding.”

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