Design of the nation’s largest research dairy begins as University of Idaho secures an additional $11 million for the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Earlier this month, U of I received a $1 million gift from the J.R. Simplot Co. to bring the university commitment for the project to $10 million. This gave momentum to the release of the $10 million state appropriation to the university to begin the design and construction phase of the project.
“We support this project given the overall focus to improve the sustainability of agriculture across Southern Idaho through a deeper understanding of ‘how we farm’ and its impacts on our soil and water,” said Scott Simplot, Chairman of the J.R. Simplot Co. Board of Directors.
Led by U of I, the project’s footprint will span three counties, with the research dairy located near Rupert, a discovery complex near Jerome and collaborative food science efforts with other institutions like the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
“Projects like CAFE demonstrate the importance of our land-grant mission and the impact it has on the state,” U of I President Scott Green said. “The university is grateful to the Simplot Company for helping us release this funding and to the state of Idaho for its commitment in support of agriculture and our dairy research.”
U of I plans to seek Idaho State Board of Education approval in December 2019 to begin design work on the research dairy. The timeline calls for construction to begin in mid-2021, with completion in 2023.
U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) began work on building a large-scale research dairy in the Magic Valley more than a dozen years ago at the request of the industry, but progress stalled during the Great Recession. CAFE was reinvigorated in 2017 with a plan to acquire the $45 million needed for the project from internal U of I resources, partners in industry and state funds.
U of I and the Idaho Dairymen’s Association partnered in early 2019 to purchase a 540-acre site for the dairy near Rupert from the Whitesides Family, who donated an additional 100 acres to the project. The 640-acre parcel will be home to the research dairy and an agronomic demonstration farm.
“We are extremely pleased to reach this milestone and believe it reflects the many positive steps we have taken as a university,” said Michael P. Parrella, CALS dean. “Our partnership with the dairy industry and a wide range of other groups to plan and fund this project underlines its importance to Idaho agriculture.”
Research at CAFE will address constraints on water usage and environmental quality while supporting the agricultural sectors of the dairy, livestock, cropland and food processing industries and exploring solutions for long-term sustainability.
Despite a completion date in 2023 for construction of the dairy, research has already begun, including a recent project to collect more than 800 soil samples at the dairy site to establish an environmental baseline for future research.
In June, CALS acquired the property in Jerome County for the discovery complex which will tell the story of all Idaho agriculture. The location will also include faculty laboratories and housing for visiting researchers and students.