Idaho University Plots Process for Research Center Closures

Two or more Extension facilities will probably be shut down.

Published on: Feb 10, 2009

The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will include faculty, staff and stakeholder groups from around the state in planning for proposed closures of research and extension centers.

Shutting down two or more of the facilities is the college's proposed response to an anticipated 7% ($1.98 million) reduction in the research and extension appropriation from the state for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1.

The Extension Service operates a dozen research and extension centers throughout the state, and another based on the Moscow, Idaho, campus that oversees nearby facilities.

The proposal was outlined by college Dean John Hammel in a recent presentation to the Idaho legislature's joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

The college plans to form a planning committee with broad membership from internal and external groups, including producers, to assess options.

No action will be taken until the state legislature appropriation decisions are finalized, which is expected to occur by the end of March.

The controlling factor in the college decision is that the agricultural research and extension budget is mostly dedicated to salaries. Only $3.3 million in operating funding is available to cover maintenance, program support and capital outlay and travel.

"We have little flexibility in our operating budget and we must not continue to markedly erode these resources," says Hammel. "Doing so will severely limit out capability to adequately support our existing research and extension programs, many of which are already underfunded, and to address future priorities driven by the changing landscape of Idaho agriculture, communities and our clientele," says Hammel.

In addition to center closures to save about $1 million, Hammel says the college plans to eliminate 15 vacant faculty and staff positions to save $800,000, and cut travel budget by 25%.