Of all the weighty matters on the JFAC agenda for budget-setting this morning, the biggest crowd was drawn by a $10 million proposal for a new dairy research lab in the Magic Valley for the University of Idaho. The plan, proposed by Gov. Butch Otter, won the committee’s support, but there was lots of discussion about the details and how it would work. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, noted that the results of research into environmental issues relating to dairies could be controversial, and he questioned whether that would become public and whether the industry would influence that research. “We’re not doing it specifically for any particular industry,” Rich Garber of the UI told the committee. “Idaho Code does specify that all of the research results will become public.”
The plan calls for a 1,500-cow dairy along with a research facility.
Before this morning’s JFAC meeting, Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, presented Werk with a black-and-white stuffed cow that moos when squeezed, saying she wanted to recognize her “city cousin” for his attention to the issue; Werk displayed the stuffed cow on his desk during the meeting. “It may be the only cow in my district, but it’s a valuable cow,” Werk declared.
The plan calls for the university to sell or trade some land near Caldwell, though that would require congressional approval, to match the state expenditure.
JFAC members said the plan is important. “You’d probably not have any cheese on your pizza if this industry were to go away,” said House Appropriations Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, said, “As I’ve watched this industry grow, I think there are some challenges with that growth, and this will help us meet those challenges and keep Idaho Idaho as this industry grows. … Even though I’m up north where these dairies are not, this is a growing industry for our state and we need to support this effort.”