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University of Idaho to get millions to raise food better

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter recommended the state invest $10 million in the University of Idaho’s research project, the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment in the Twin Falls area, during Monday’s State of the State address. (The Spokesman-Review file photo)
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter recommended the state invest $10 million in the University of Idaho’s research project, the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment in the Twin Falls area, during Monday’s State of the State address. (The Spokesman-Review file photo)
By Shanon Quinn Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The University of Idaho is feeling love from Gov. Butch Otter as it works to bring to life a $45 million research and education initiative in dairy and livestock production.

Otter recommended the state invest $10 million in the university’s research project, the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment in the Twin Falls area, during Monday’s State of the State address.

“We’re all very pleased with Governor Otter’s support for this program. It’s a program we’ve wanted to do for years and this is a great move forward,” UI President Chuck Staben said Wednesday.

Staben said the governor’s recommendation has accelerated the university’s hopes for the program.

“Earlier in the year we had anticipated preparing a request for the following year, and the governor and Legislature were aware of that request and essentially accelerated that request for this year,” he said.

Staben said the CAFE program has been a long time coming, having been first discussed in the early 2000s. The timeline was pushed back by the recession, and Staben said the program’s mission has only increased in importance since that time.

“That industry has grown, the food processing industry has grown and the livestock industry has grown and the relationships between these industries have become ever more important,” he said. “This is a great example of research that the University of Idaho can conduct to sustain the industry in Idaho and also have a worldwide impact. I see the food industry in Idaho as a part of really feeding the world.”

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Michael Parrella said much of the research CAFE does will focus on the sustainability of agricultural systems such as livestock and dairy.

Planned research and outreach subjects include more efficient water use in dairy operations, watershed restoration, increased profitability through sustainable practices and improved business planning and an increased understanding of environmental regulations in dairies.

John Folz, special assistant to the president for agricultural initiatives at UI, said while the focus of CAFE will be on agriculture, the ag college won’t be its only player.

“The College of Engineering, College of Agriculture, College of Science will all play large roles,” he said.

Parella said CAFE will bring together universities, government agencies and the private sector to advance the sustainability of dairy and livestock production in Idaho through research, education and outreach.

The proposed facility will include space for university faculty, staff and others as well as research laboratories, classrooms, a research dairy and food processing pilot plant.

Staben said he expects more detailed plans on the center to be completed in 2017, and physical progress to be made within the next two years.

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