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Idaho one step closer to having the largest research dairy in the US

By KEITH RIDLER Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The University of Idaho’s plan to build the nation’s largest experimental and research dairy farm cleared a major hurdle Tuesday.

Idaho Governor Brad Little and two other statewide elected officials from the Idaho Land Board approved the university’s plan to use $23 million to purchase approximately 640 acres of farmland in south-central Idaho. , the heart of the state’s dairy industry.

That would be the primary focus of the school’s proposed Center for Agriculture, Food and Environment, or CAFE.

The Idaho dairy industry is the third largest dairy producer in the country, behind California and Wisconsin. But the industry in Idaho, and in general, faces a variety of challenges with greenhouse gas emissions from animals, land and water pollution, and waste systems from dairies that can have thousands of cows. They produce tons of manure.

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University of Idaho President Scott Green, who called the vote a major victory for the state, the university and the dairy industry, said the school has been unable to conduct the large-scale research the industry needs to find solutions. for those and other problems. complex problems

“The research we do there will help us improve water quality within the state,” Green said after the vote. “It will help us use the waste products of the dairy industry in a way that is beneficial for the environment and for agriculture.”

Green said students will gain the education necessary to work at the forefront of agribusiness and dairy sciences. She also said that CAFE opens the door for the school to receive millions in research grants, which could lead to new ideas and innovation.

If CAFE is successful as planned, the operation would include an experimental farm and a 2,000-cow research dairy in Minidoka County. Classrooms, labs, and faculty offices would be built in Jerome County, near the intersection of Interstate 84 and U.S. Route 93. A pilot food-processing plant with a center would be located. workforce training and education program at the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls County.

The state’s dairy industry has supported the plan, donating more than $8.5 million to date, according to state officials.

Specifically, the board voted Tuesday to use $23 million from the 2021 sale of 282 acres of endowment land in Caldwell to benefit the University of Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to purchase approximately 640 acres of land. farm in Minidoka County north of Rupert owned by the university, turning that into endowment land. The school will now use that land and endowment money to build the research dairy.

Endowment land is land that Idaho received upon becoming a state and is managed by the Land Board to produce the maximum long-term return for the recipients, primarily public education.

Land Board members had other options for the money. He could have transferred the $23 million to a fund that would generate money through investments. He could also have kept the money for possible investments in timber forests, the most reliable generator of income for state lands.

Choosing the university option was unique in that it recognized research as an asset.

“If this was more affordable research, private industry would be doing it,” Little said after the meeting. “This is the kind of thing the government has to do, these long-term, low-yielding (investments). If we get an investigation of this that creates a cleaner, more sustainable way to have a dairy in Idaho, we all win.”

Applause erupted in the Statehouse meeting room immediately after the vote, an unusual occurrence for a Land Board meeting that typically deals with serious financial management decisions involving the 3,900 square miles (10,100 square kilometers) of endowment land. of the state.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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