Catching Up with CALS — Dec. 2, 2020
Dean's Message — Building Awareness
Idaho is the third largest milk-producing state. Together with the food processing component that includes cheese, yogurt and other products, the dairy industry represents more than 30% of the state’s gross domestic product.
Despite these impressive statistics, Idaho struggles at the regional and national level for recognition of the industry’s size and importance of this industry. The research and extension CALS faculty conduct in support of the dairy industry deserves greater recognition, too.
The issues facing the dairy industry in the state require a greater and more comprehensive approach than has historically been done by our faculty. The concept of CAFE, the comprehensive Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, arose more than 10 years ago to address these issues. The need for CAFE only grew during the years since.
The state appropriated $10 million for CAFE in 2017, which was combined with support from stakeholders as well as from the sale of U of I agricultural property to move the project forward.
U of I and stakeholders purchased 640 acres in Rupert for the research dairy and six acres of frontage road property near the intersection of Interstate 84 and Idaho Highway 93 in Jerome County.
We are in the final stages of the dairy design and expect to seek approval for construction from the State Board of Education this spring.
The various components of CAFE expanded considerably since its original inception. In addition to the research dairy, there is an associated agronomic demonstration farm that will eventually exceed 1,200 acres. In the Jerome and Twin Falls area, the project grew to include an extension/outreach discovery center.
Our collaboration on CAFE with the College of Southern Idaho includes a food processing research facility on its campus. Another key addition is a major educational component for retraining the industry workforce and for educating undergraduate and graduate students.
CAFE is a U of I initiative, and it offers an incredible opportunity to expand our influence, presence and recognition in southern Idaho. This is consistent with the U of I President C. Scott Green’s three-part mission of telling our story, expanding our research and increasing student success. CAFE will grow our ability to recruit students from southern Idaho.
With the final pieces coming together, it is time to fully engage the university in visioning the kinds of programs that will be successful under the CAFE umbrella. Given the expansive research, outreach and educational opportunities offered by CAFE, there is the opportunity for contribution by all colleges and centers/institutes.
I spoke Tuesday as part of the U of I Malcolm Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium series to more fully detail CAFE’s progress. My hope is the session will help others throughout the university see the project’s potential and generate broader involvement by the university community.
CAFE will grow stronger and fully meet its potential with broader campus participation. I am truly excited to see CAFE be all that it can be.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
1,338,000,000 pounds of milk from Idaho’s dairy herd in September marked a 3.1% increase from September 2019. Milk production rose to 1,360,000,000 pounds in October, a 2.7% rise from the year before.
Our Stories — Inviting Interdisciplinary Buy-in
The Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment offers a wealth of opportunities to carry Idaho and the University of Idaho forward, CALS Dean Michael Parrella told an online audience Tuesday.
Parrella’s program was part of the U of I Malcolm Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium series offered virtually in Zoom. The session is archived on YouTube. It drew more than 100 people, series director Kenton Bird said.
Better known as CAFE, the project is essential to broadly support the agricultural industry in Idaho with a specific focus on research and extension to support its expansive dairy and food processing industry. The project will also produce the trained workforce needed to power the state’s economy by helping U of I fulfill its mandate to serve the state, Parrella said.
He presented a combination of the project’s history, charted its progress and welcomed greater involvement from U of I colleagues across the Moscow campus and around the state.
“We’re already a great university and we can be even better,” Parrella said. Many view CAFE as a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences project, and although the previous U of I president tasked Parrella and the college with leading it, CAFE remains a university initiative.
His ultimate goal in pursuing CAFE, he said, is preparing the university and its partners to meet future challenges and take advantage of future opportunities.
A key partner in the project is the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. Jerome 2020, a Jerome County-based business and community advocacy organization, is another proponent of CAFE that strongly influenced CAFE’s development.
The centerpiece of CAFE, a 2,000-cow research dairy near Rupert, is in the design phase. “We plan to seek permission from the Idaho State Board of Education in the spring to begin construction,” Parrella said.
Another key feature will be a six-acre Discovery Complex in Jerome County near the Interstate 84 – U.S. Highway 93 intersection near the Twin Falls exit. It will feature research, classroom and office space, and a visitor center dedicated to telling the story of Idaho agriculture.
Greater collaboration with the CSI campus food processing program and expanded undergraduate and graduate education opportunities rank as major CAFE goals, he said.
Encounter Informs Moller Biochar Talk
In mid-2016, CALS environmental chemist Greg Moller attended the White House Nutrient Recycling Summit in Washington, D.C. During a break, a well-known resident of the building, Vice President Joe Biden, introduced himself to Moller.
The pair struck up a 20-minute conversation about Idaho and challenges of the rural West, and the VP asked for Greg’s business card. The rest is history.
Moller, or “Idaho Greg” as Biden called him to a mutual colleague later in a Dublin pub, will serve as the kickoff speaker Monday, Dec. 7, during the online National Biochar Week sponsored by the U.S. Biochar Initiative.
Moller’s topic will be “Biochar and Biden: Opportunities in a New Climate-Driven Bioeconomy.”
“The transition of every new administration into office has been accompanied by a fountainhead of new ideas,” Moller says. His presentation will address “practical recommendations that can help anneal new ideas for a climate-driven bioeconomy into strong actions that make a difference.“
And one more thing, in August 2019, while the president-elect was campaigning for the Democratic nomination, the candidate and the researcher continued the conversation during a meet-up in Boise.
Registration is free and available online.
Faces and Places
UI Extension Area Educator, Forestry and Professor Chris Schnepf has been elected to serve on the National Board for the Society of American Foresters. Chris will represent District 1 on the board beginning in January. The SAF was founded in 1900 to bring forestry and natural resources professionals together.
- Dec. 15-18 — Idaho Ag Outlook Seminar, register today, 8 a.m. PST/9 a.m. MST
- Dec. 16 — "Researching the History and People Behind the Apples,” Heritage Orchard Conference, 10-11:30 a.m. PST
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