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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654

Email: ag@uidaho.edu

Location

Catching Up with CALS — Feb. 22, 2023

Dean's Message — Shortage of Rural Practitioners

A crisis is looming in Idaho’s rural communities, and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is well positioned to intervene. We’re already facing a shortage of large animal veterinarians — practitioners who manage the health of livestock such as cattle, horses, sheep and goats — especially in the state’s least populated areas where animal agriculture is most important. Complicating matters, the shortage is poised to become more acute, as an astounding percentage of our large animal vets are older than 65 and nearing retirement. The crisis is national in scope. A study (pdf) commissioned by Farm Journal Foundation and conducted by a Cornell University veterinary economist found just 3-4% of new U.S. veterinary graduates entered food animal-related practices throughout the past two decades.

Those positions offer essential support for an industry associated with more than 3.7 million jobs. The study also concluded there are more than 500 counties nationwide, mostly rural, in which crucial food animal positions remain unfilled — two-thirds of those positions have been vacant for at least five years. Reasons for the shortage are no mystery. Large animal vets work long and hard, travel throughout rural America to reach their clients and earn less pay than their colleagues who specialize in pets. More than half of bovine vets, for example, had lingering education debt 29 years after graduation, according to the Cornell study. In Idaho, one of nine states with more cattle than people, it’s a problem we can’t afford to ignore.

The state Legislature pays through University of Idaho for 11 Idaho veterinary students per year to receive subsidized tuition through the Washington State University-run Washington-Idaho-Montana-Utah Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine (WIMU). We send about $41,000 per student per year to help with out-of-state tuition, and WSU returns a portion of the funding to compensate for rotations we manage for students on our farms. Soon the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, which will include the nation’s largest research dairy in Rupert, will be added as another site for rotations. Private-sector partners, such as J.R. Simplot Co. ranch, also host rotations. While there’s been no increase in funding for WIMU students since the program was launched in the mid-1980s, tuition costs have steadily risen. Furthermore, just half of Idaho’s WIMU graduates typically return to practice in the state. And those who do return often prefer to locate in urban communities.

We at CALS are taking the lead in finding Idaho-centric solutions to these serious problems. In January we convened a task force, led by Bob Collier, department head of animal, veterinary and food sciences, comprising about 30 leading animal science experts, university faculty, producers, large animal veterinarians, lawmakers and Idaho State Department of Agriculture officials to study the issue. The task force has identified three primary factors behind the shortage: the high debt load of graduating veterinarians, low initial starting salary of large animal veterinarians and the long hours and physical demands of the occupation.

One challenge we face is that the state’s veterinary licensing regulations don’t require veterinarians to specify whether they work on large animals, pets or a mix of both. Our task force is recommending that the Idaho Legislature require that disclosure to help us better understand the shortage. The task force sees great promise in authorizing additional tuition help for veterinarians who agree to work for a number of years in rural Idaho. The task force has also discussed allowing veterinary technicians under the supervision of veterinarians to conduct certain procedures that require less skill.

Furthermore, U of I is considering establishing a “one plus three” program in collaboration with WSU or another institution, through which the first year of veterinary school would be taught at U of I. Such a program would require the Legislature to make additional investments in CALS but would keep those resources in state while providing us the flexibility to place greater emphasis on our large animal veterinary program. Our task force anticipates making formal recommendations to the Legislature before the current session ends in the spring. CALS agricultural economists recently estimated livestock represent 57% of Idaho’s agricultural cash receipts, not factoring hay and feed to support the animals. The stakes are high regarding our task force’s work. I’m confident we’re on the right path.

Michael P Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Michael P. Parrella

Dean
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


By the Numbers

A national decline in veterinarians working in rural areas, especially those specializing in livestock, has major economic implications. A study (pdf) funded by Farm Journal Foundation and conducted by Clinton Neill, an assistant professor in veterinary economics for the Cornell Center of Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship, found just 2.3% of veterinary businesses resided in counties with populations of less than 2,500, and food animal veterinarians comprise just 5% of the total veterinarian population, compared with about 40% from 40 years ago. The U.S. veterinary industry supported $22 billion in agricultural outputs and more than 571,000 jobs in 2020, according to the study. The industry also supports 3.7 million jobs associated with major livestock sectors. Bovine veterinarians, for example, contribute about $1.5 billion in direct economic impact, according to the study. The study found most food animal veterinarians are white men who are over 50 years old.


Our Stories

Portraits of two women and a man.

CALS Recognizes Outstanding Alumni

The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences honored a group of outstanding alumni and friends who have made notable contributions to their field on Feb. 21 at the Boise Centre during the annual CALS Alumni Awards Reception.

The Boise event celebrated the 2022 awardees for their achievements benefiting industry, CALS, U of I and their communities.

The event recognized awardees in the following categories: the Alumni Achievement Award honoring recent alumni who have made outstanding career achievements and contributions to their field, the Distinguished Alumni Award honoring alumni with a distinguished record of achievement and service to CALS, the Distinguished Associate Alumni Award honoring friends of the college (non-alumni) who have served CALS with great distinction, and the Early Career Achievement Award recognizing young and recent alumni who have made outstanding career achievements and contributions.

About the 2022 CALS Alumni and Friends Award recipients:

Alumni Achievement Award: Surine Greenway — Surine Greenway, of Caldwell, graduated from U of I in 2009 with bachelor’s degrees in family and consumer sciences and Spanish and in 2013 received a master’s in adult organizational learning and leadership from U of I. Greenway works as a UI Extension educator in family and consumer sciences, serving Owyhee County. Greenway is charged with providing multi-county technical expertise in the areas of food safety and preservation, financial management and nutrition and health. In a letter of support, Patrick Momont, UI Extension's southern district director, credited Greenway for supporting 4-H youth development programs that reach diverse and underserved clientele and for teaching numerous classes for youth and adult entrepreneurship programs in both English and Spanish.

Distinguished Alumni Award: Joey Peutz — Joey Peutz, of Payette, earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from CALS in 1992 and a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences from CALS in 1995. Peutz started her career as a high school family and consumer sciences teacher and currently works as a UI Extension educator serving Payette County. In 2020, Peutz received the highest national peer recognition in being selected as the Western Region and National Extension Educator of the Year for the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Patrick Momont, UI Extension's southern district director wrote in a letter of support, “Over her career, Joey has received and managed $3.5 million in USDA nutrition funding to support Eat Smart Idaho programs and $1.2 million in external grant funding to support her technology, food safety and other nutrition and health programs.”

Distinguished Associate Alumni Award: Doug Robison — Doug Robison, of Twin Falls, is the Idaho president of Northwest Farm Credit Services. Although he did not earn his degrees at U of I, he is a member of the CALS Dean’s Advisory Committee, as well as the CALS Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Advisory Committee. He is also a board member with Idaho Food Bank. In a letter of support for Robison’s nomination, Blair J. Wilson, retired Idaho president of Northwest Farm Credit Services, described Robison as a tireless supporter of CALS and U of I. “Doug has taken a leadership role in advocating for significant support for substantial capital investments in many of CALS’ priorities,” Wilson wrote.

Early Career Achievement Award: Frank Antonio “Patxi” Larrocea-Phillips — Frank “Patxi” Larrocea-Phillips, of Nampa, graduated from CALS in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and received his Juris Doctor from U of I in 2018. He works as a consultant and legislative advisor for Association Management Group, through which he holds positions as executive director of Idaho Noxious Weed Control Association, executive secretary of Idaho Irrigation Equipment Association, a staff member with Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative and a government relations official for the Idaho Wool Growers Association. He’s also an attorney with Sawtooth Law Offices in Boise and maintains a small beef herd as owner of LP Associates & Agriculture, LLC. As a volunteer, he serves on the Ada County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, he’s active in Canyon County 4-H youth development, and he was a volunteer firefighter with the Moscow Fire Department from February 2014 through May 2016. In his letter of support for Larrocea-Phillips, CALS Dean Michael Parrella wrote, “As a young alum, Patxi is a proven leader who has made a big impact to improve Idaho agriculture. We are proud he is a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alum.

The following two awardees received their awards and were recognized in fall 2022 at an event in Moscow:

International Achievement Award: Gene Allen — Gene Allen, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, graduated from CALS with a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry in 1961, before earning a master’s degree and doctorate in meat and animal science from University of Wisconsin. He worked a long career and held several leadership positions at University of Minnesota, retiring in 2006 as associate vice president for international programs. In a letter of support for Allen, Bob Haggerty, director of CALS international agricultural programs, credited Allen with setting a standard for producing “global-ready” graduates that became a national model for integrating study or learning abroad experiences into the national curriculum. Haggerty has integrated Allen’s model into CALS undergraduate curriculum.

Distinguished Alumni Award: Jim Miller — Jim Miller, of Moscow, earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from CALS in 1995. He is director of business operations and co-owner of Palouse Animal Wellness and Surgery Center in Moscow. Jim is a tireless volunteer for Idaho agriculture and his local community — serving in a variety of capacities that include Latah County 4-H volunteer and project leader, serving on the board of trustees for Leadership Idaho Agriculture, and the Moscow FFA Advisory Committee Member to name a few. In a letter of support for Miller’s nomination, Rick Naerebout, CEO for Idaho Dairymen’s Association, states “Jim is an exceptional ambassador for CALS, leading with integrity, an upbeat attitude and over support for Idaho agriculture and the college.” Miller was also a founding member of Leadership Moscow.


A woman standing behind a podium.

New 4-H Director

Angie Freel had 4-H kids before she had children of her own.

Freel, who recently became the new director of University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development program, started her career in 4-H in 1996, when she took a position as a secretary at the University of Arkansas state 4-H office in Little Rock.

One year later, she jumped at the chance to work as a 4-H agent in White County, Arkansas.

Freel felt as proud as any parent helping her 4-H kids meet their potential.

“I had the opportunity to watch them grow through the experience of being in 4-H, and that’s because they had mentors at the club level, they had each other and they went to state and national events,” Freel said. “I would watch this kid who was scared to get up in front of a group of people and say anything get up and give a persuasive speech that had me crying at the end. It was really evident how good 4-H is for our communities.”

Later, Freel also got to witness her biological children — Brodie, Grayson and Ellis — experience the benefits of 4-H. She believes 4-H is unique in that it teaches leadership and public speaking skills to the entire family. Parents serve as volunteers and mentors to help run 4-H and get to attend their own state and national training events.

“We get to change lives literally every day,” Freel said.

Over the course of 18 years, she worked as a 4-H agent in four Arkansas counties, before being promoted to 4-H STEM coordinator in 2014. In 2018, she was asked to fill in as the interim associate department head over 4-H. In 2020, she was named University of Arkansas’ 4-H department head.

Freel earned a family and consumer sciences bachelor’s degree in 1996 from University of Central Arkansas. She also earned a pair of graduate degrees from University of Arkansas while employed there — a master’s degree in human development and family studies in 2004 and a doctorate in human resources and workforce development in 2020.

In her new position, she’s replaced James Lindstrom, who retired.

While attending national 4-H conferences on behalf of the University of Arkansas program, Freel was impressed by the camaraderie and teamwork she witnessed among the U of I group.

UI Extension has been an innovator in pushing the limits of 4-H content, and Freel looks forward to moving the program even further ahead. For example, UI Extension 4-H Youth Development's new “Learn Everywhere with 4-H” program was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education last fall and will offer extended learning opportunities for K-12 public school students. The program will focus on middle-schoolers starting this spring and will eventually award credits that will apply toward high school graduation outside of the classroom.

“To me that proves that there’s a really good relationship between the different entities outside of the university because it’s going to take a lot of different partnerships to make that happen,” Freel said.

Creative partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Juntos program, through which 4-H staff support academic success among Latinx youth in grades 8-12, also sets 4-H apart, in Freel’s opinion. Furthermore, Freel is impressed by how Idaho's 4-H program is structured, with district leaders placed in each region of the state to be in closer proximity with county staff.

Freel is also excited about potentially sharing a couple of favorite programs with the Vandal community from her time in Arkansas. For example, “4-H Food Challenge” patterned after the Food Network show “Chopped,” challenges youth to make a nutritious meal using ingredients from a sack, and then to speak in detail about their creations.

Freel and her husband, Monty, who is a licensed home inspector, enjoy remodeling homes together. They have three children: Brodie, the youngest, is graduating from high school. Their son Grayson is a sophomore at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Their daughter, Ellis, is a junior at the University of Arkansas majoring in poultry science and accounting.

Freel appreciates the natural beauty of the Moscow campus, and she’s intrigued by the opportunities to participate in new outdoor activities.

She’s eager to try snowmobiling for the first time. She also plans to spend time hiking, biking, fly fishing and skiing. Moving to the west also brings her closer to her brother, who lives near Salt Lake City.

“I thought, ‘If I’m ever going to do something like this, now is the time because my youngest is about to graduate from high school,’” Freel said.


Man holding two types of bugs.

Bug, Spider Collections Fighting Fears

With his live, exotic insect and arachnid collection, University of Idaho Extension Educator Jason Thomas has taught thousands of Idaho children that there’s nothing necessarily creepy about a cockroach, terrifying about a tarantula or repulsive about a roly-poly.

Fewer than 3% of insects and spiders are considered pests, though most people lump them all together in the creepy-crawly category. Thomas, of Minidoka County, reasons improving perceptions about these misunderstood arthropods is the best path toward preventing the needless spraying of creatures that appear menacing but are harmless, or even beneficial.

He's developed a hands-on program that’s brought upwards of 80 different insect and spider species to 4-H group functions, community events and classrooms, enabling the public to handle live specimens and overcome fears.

“It’s a very rewarding experience because we will have some people who are scared to death of spiders and by the end of them getting to hold all of these different things they are fascinated and interested, and they keep asking to hold the spiders again,” Thomas said.

Thomas has also provided training and specimens to Extension educators who have launched smaller satellite programs in Jefferson, Clark, Caribou, Bear Lake, Teton and Blaine counties.

Heading forward, Thomas will prioritize training teachers and leaders of organizations within his community who would like to borrow and showcase these organisms to learners.

“You want things that are big, exotic and different-looking,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been providing opportunities for people — especially youth — to handle and interact with bugs since he first joined UI Extension in January 2018. His early hands-on lessons featured hissing cockroaches and giant prickly stick insects, which he obtained through U of I’s William F. Barr Entomological Museum.

“Initially, I was working with 4-H youth in the county. We’d always take bugs to the county fair and have a booth,” Thomas said, adding younger children are most receptive to handling insects and spiders. “And then I started getting calls from public schools in Minidoka County. Then I was getting calls from homeschool groups.”

In September 2021, Thomas received an American Rescue Plan Act grant to support his 4-H efforts, which he combined with county funding to grow the program. With the funding, he significantly expanded his collection by reaching out to arthropod breeders who sell online and visiting exotic pet stores.

Giant prickly stick insects, giant African millipedes, blue feigning death beetles, pink-toe tarantulas, giant vinegaroons, wide-horn hissing roaches and dairy cow isopods have been among his greatest attractions. The exoskeletons of the ironclad beetles in his collection are structural marvels, capable of withstanding being run over by a small car.

The grant enabled Thomas to hire high school students and others to assist in caring for the creatures and taking them out to classrooms. Cleaning cages and feeding and watering the insects and spiders required a time investment of up to eight hours per week at the height of the collection.

Thomas has also taken specimens from his collection to events and classrooms in surrounding counties, including a Bug Day event in Boise attended by more than 3,000 participants. He hosted inservice trainings for Extension educators starting their own smaller collections.

Joseph Sagers, UI Extension educator in Jefferson County, takes the insect and spider collection Thomas helped him start to area schools and 4-H day camps.

“A lot of times you can do presentations to some kids and it just goes over their head, but most kids remember that day a tarantula walked over their hand,” Sagers said.

Thomas breeds thousands of mealworms and cockroaches to feed his numerous predatory insects and spiders. Under his supervision or the supervision of a trained helper, Thomas allows participants to handle the more docile creatures. He also has some insects and spiders that aren’t safe to handle, such as black widows and burgundy Goliath birdeater tarantulas, which are kept inside of cages while participants view them.

“Another purpose is to get kids excited about science and STEM, and it’s a great thing to study,” Thomas said.

From September 2021 to August 2022, his program reached 8,107 youth about insects and spiders. He also educated 1,977 adults about insects during that year. During the recent Idaho Potato Conference in Pocatello, Thomas shared his insect collection with adult farmworkers attending sessions offered in Spanish. He hopes the experience will lead them to make more informed decisions about when to apply pesticides.

Now that the grant has ended, Thomas no longer has access to program staff. He’s scaled back his collection to where it takes him no more than an hour per week to care for all of his insects and spiders.

“We’re continuing it, just not at the pace we were before,” Thomas said.

Those interested in learning more about using insects, spiders or other arthropods for education can reach out to Thomas at jasont@uidaho.edu to learn more.


Faces and Places

Georgia Harrison, a doctoral student in plant sciences, won second place on Feb. 15 for her graduate student presentation at the Society for Range Management meeting, hosted in Boise.

Paul Tietz, a doctoral student studying soil and land resources, won third place during the Idaho 3-Minute Thesis competition hosted Feb. 7 at the College of Western Idaho campus in Nampa and organized by University of Idaho Boise. The competition challenges graduate students to present highlights of their research to a non-expert audience in no more than three minutes and using just one slide.

Mackie Griggs, a senior studying animal and veterinary science: production option, and Julia Bedke, a senior studying agricultural systems management, served as interns at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Trade Show in New Orleans.

A team that included CALS researcher Jim Sprinkle, a UI Extension beef specialist, received the 2023 Rangeland Ingenuity Award from the U.S. Forest Service during the 2023 Society for Range Management meeting, hosted Feb. 12-16 in Boise. Other recipients on the team who were recognized included Karen Launchbaugh and Dan Lauritzen, with U of I's College of Natural Resources, former CNR rangeland specialist April Hulet and Jared Simpson, with S-S Ranch.

A woman and man standing in a sage brush field.
Georgia Harrison and Tim Prather
A man giving a presentation in front of an audience.
Paul Tietz
Two women standing in front of a beef sign.
Mackie Griggs and Julia Bedke
An award and portrait of a man with a cowboy hat on.
Jim Sprinkle

Events

Contact

College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654

Email: ag@uidaho.edu

Location