PARMA, Idaho — During a March 8 meeting, the dean of the University of Idaho’s agriculture college laid out the basic outline of his goal to invest $25 million in UI’s nine research and extension centers.
The average age of facilities at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ research stations is 50 years old and the college plans to spend millions of dollars to build modern ones that can help the college recruit top researchers, said CALS dean Michael Parrella.
He said the plan starts with the Parma facility, which conducts research on multiple crops, including beans, potatoes, onions, hops, mint, tree fruit, wine and table grapes, cereals and seed crops.
“If we can build a $6 million facility here (at Parma), that is a game-changer. That is transformational. That’s what I’m shooting for,” he told about 50 members of the state’s farming industry.
Parrella said that when CALS announced it was holding a visioning session to talk about the future of the Parma research station, some people asked him if the university was considering closing the station.
“No, it’s just the opposite,” he said. “We’re going to make it better and invest in it. And we’re not going to stop at Parma. We’re going to invest in all of our R and E centers.”
The visioning session was held to garner industry input on what it needs from the research centers and Parrella said CALS will take that input and put together a blueprint for moving forward.
The money needed to invest in the research stations will come from a three-way partnership between the college, industry and the legislature, Parrella said.
People who attended the event told Capital Press they believe industry members would be willing to contribute financially to accomplish CALS’ vision of investing in the research stations but they will have to be convinced the college has a solid plan.
“If there’s a good plan put together and it’s one that’s comprehensive so that industry can see that there will be success from it, then I do think industry will come around and support it,” said Greenleaf farmer Dave Dixon. “But it has to be a very good plan so industry is confident that they will get something out of it.”
Hammett grower Nick Blanksma said he was impressed with Parrella’s vision for positioning the research stations for success into the future.
“You have to look to the future and dean Parrella’s vision is the future and it’s something I’m excited about and it’s something that everybody in Idaho should be excited about,” he said.
During the four-hour event, Rich Garber, governmental affairs director for Idaho Grain Producers Association, spoke about the idea of creating an Idaho agriculture endowment that all segments of the state’s farming industry can contribute to.
“I think if we are collectively committed to that, we could raise an incredible amount of money to support agriculture programs around the state,” he told Capital Press later.