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UI Pushing For Support On Biotechnology $5.9 Million In Federal Money At Risk Without State Dollars

Sat., Dec. 28, 1996

University of Idaho President Robert Hoover and the College of Agriculture are increasing their lobbying to secure support for the dangling biotechnology program.

The work includes renovating the 45-year-old agricultural science building and adding biotechnology labs, plus improvements to the aquaculture centers at Hagerman and Moscow.

The $5.9 million in federal money promised for the project is in danger of falling through if the Legislature does not provide the $4.35 million match needed to complete the project.

Hoover has spoken to more than 75 groups in the last six months about the program and a variety of biotechnology education efforts are under way.

“What we’ve tried to do is meet with as many people as we possibly can to point out the significance of this to the state in a period when agriculture is changing so rapidly as far as the role of biotechnology goes,” he said.

“The critical thing about politics is nothing is a sure bet.”

The project is the top priority in the Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council’s capital budget request to the Legislature.

The federal government will be eyeing the money as a convenient cut, Hoover said.

“There are a series of things off the table: Social Security, defense, Medicare. When you take all those off the table, there’s not much left over,” he said.

College of Agriculture officials have conducted eight town hall meetings. They included a video with farmers’ testimony and several cameo appearances by former Sen. James McClure.

“We are simply trying to be diligent and keep everybody informed, and hope they will continue to be enthusiastic about the project this session, given all the fiscal problems (legislators) have to deal with,” said Richard Heimsch, agriculture dean of research.


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