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Idaho A Step Closer To Having Largest Research Dairy In US

Idaho A Step Closer To Having Largest Research Dairy In US

By Keith Ridler

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and two other statewide-elected officials on the Idaho Land Board approved the university's plan to use $23 million to buy roughly 640 acres of farmland in south-central Idaho, the heart of the state's dairy industry.

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

Idaho's dairy industry is the third-largest dairy producer in the nation, behind California and Wisconsin. But the industry in Idaho—and in general—faces a range of challenges with  from animals, land and , and waste systems from dairies that can have thousands of cows that produce tons of manure.

If CAFE succeeds as envisioned, the operation would include an experimental farm and 2,000-cow research dairy in Minidoka County. Classrooms, labs and faculty offices would be constructed in Jerome County near where Interstate 84 and U.S. Route 93 intersect. A food processing pilot plant with a workforce training and education facility would be located 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 .

Specifically, the board on Tuesday voted to use $23 million from the 2021 sale of 282 acres of endowment land in Caldwell benefitting the University of Idaho's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to buy roughly 640 acres of farmland in Minidoka County north of Rupert owned by the university—turning that into endowment land. The school will now use that endowment land and money to build the research .

Endowment land is land Idaho received at statehood and that the Land Board manages to produce the maximum return over the long term for beneficiaries, mainly .

Land Board members had other options for the money. It could have transferred the $23 million to a fund that would generate money through investments. It also could have kept the money for potential investments in timberland, the most dependable revenue generator for state land.

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

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