Parma ag research center to get boost from Simplot

admin//December 7, 2009

Parma ag research center to get boost from Simplot

admin//December 7, 2009

The J.R. Simplot Co. plans to give a lift to the University of Idaho Parma Research and Extension Center, which, along with extension centers in Sandpoint and Tetonia, has been on the chopping block for months due to dwindling state funds.

Under a pre-agreement document submitted for consideration by the University of Idaho Board of Regents, the university and J.R. Simplot Co. propose a $1.5 million, multi-year agreement, the university said in a release.

Terms of the Simplot agreement will be presented to the University of Idaho Board of Regents / Idaho State Board of Education for consideration and approval. The board’s next meeting is scheduled Dec. 9-10 in Twin Falls. The university at that time also will present its final recommendations for the research and extension centers.

Cooperative conversations concerning the Sandpoint and Tetonia centers have enabled the university to acquire sufficient pledges of funds from industry parties to allow the institution to maintain operations at the two facilities to be maintained through June 30, the last day of the current fiscal year, the university said. The university plans to continue seeking more sustainable permanent funding from industry partners for those facilities.

Tania Thompson, University of Idaho media relations director, said in an interview that the university plans to provide an update to the Regents Dec. 10 concerning the Parma, Sandpoint and Tetonia facilities.

The Idaho State Board of Education Web site can be accessed at: http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/bdmeetings.asp

The Dec. 9-10 agenda and materials can be accessed at: http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/meetings/2009/12_10_09/agendatopostall.pdf

Under Board of Regents policy, the university began concurrent administrative processes to have the mechanisms in place in the event that it needed to restructure some or a number of its research and extension center operations. The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences administers research and extension centers statewide, including cooperative efforts with counties to base U of I Extension research faculty in county offices. Action by the Idaho Legislature and the governor’s holdback directive, in the face of declining state revenues, reduced the state appropriation to the Agricultural Research and Extension Service budget this year by 17 percent, or $4.7 million, the university said in the release.

In broad terms, the agreement that Simplot submitted to the Board of Regents regarding the Parma Research and Extension Center outlines a commitment from Simplot to contribute $300,000 each year for five years to the center, which would give Simplot researchers use of facilities and acreage for crop research and development, the university said. The funds would be used to pay the university’s labor, materials and other operating costs directly applicable to management and operation of the land and facilities provided by the university under the agreement, and to contribute to costs associated with the university’s overall maintenance of the Parma center.

The agreement states that Simplot’s stand-alone research and the resulting intellectual property would be retained by the company, the university said.

“This agreement shows that the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences conducts research that is important to the state, to Idaho agriculture and to a company that symbolizes the entrepreneurial spirit, agriculture and Idaho for many of us,” said John Hammel, dean of the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“The J. R. Simplot Company is excited about the potential for a new level of collaborative research that will benefit both Idaho and our company,” said Simplot President and CEO Bill Whitacre. “The opportunity to work with the University of Idaho will further enable us to enhance both the practical and technical sides of production agriculture in the food system.”

“The University of Idaho and J.R. Simplot Company have had a long and proud history of providing leadership to the state and its agricultural industry,” University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said in the release. “This innovative agreement aligns the research and knowledge expertise of Idaho's land-grant university with the business acumen of one of the state’s most respected industry leaders and marks a new era in public-private collaboration in Idaho agricultural research. This is an Idaho-grown partnership that will pay long-term dividends to the state’s economy.”