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$45 Million UI Agricultural Research Project Gets Support from Gov. Otter

January 09, 2017

Idaho’s economically important agricultural and food processing industries and the environment will be the focus of a new $45 million research and education initiative led by the University of Idaho.

The Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) was included in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State message Monday. The governor recommended that the state this year invest $10 million in the center. UI and other partners will identify funding for the other two-thirds of the project, which is planned in the Magic Valley near Twin Falls.

The center will focus on environmental solutions, economic development, and educational opportunities to ensure the sustainability of livestock and crop agriculture and food processing in Idaho.

“We thank Gov. Otter for his support for an initiative we feel is critical to Idaho’s future,” University of Idaho President Chuck Staben said. “This effort is led by the University of Idaho but relies on support and participation from education, industry and economic development partners.”

Agribusiness contributed $27.8 billion in sales, one-fifth of Idaho’s total economic output, and 128,200 jobs in Idaho in 2014, according to a recent report by UI agricultural economists. The importance of livestock, dairy and food processing to Idaho’s economy has grown dramatically in the last 10 years. Idaho is now the third largest dairy producing state in the U.S., much of which leaves the state as high value food products like cheese and yogurt.

The support from the governor and Idaho Legislature leaders was instrumental in moving forward the plan for a major new research center in southern Idaho.

“Finding new and better ways of improving and adding value to our diverse and dynamic agriculture industry, our growing food production and processing businesses, and our state’s environmental quality are great goals and great investments in our future,” Otter said. “I’m confident the work that will be done at CAFE will help all of Idaho take important steps toward reaching our full potential.”

Much of the planning hinges on a feasibility study due to the university later this month.

Over the last three years, UI leaders have been deepening relationships with agricultural research companies, food producers and processors. The six county Magic Valley area was recently selected as a top 12 U.S. manufacturing community by the U.S. Department of Commerce Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, emphasizing the leadership role this region plays in food processing.

Idaho CAFE would use a working dairy as a setting for dynamic research into topics of state and worldwide importance, including:

  • Nutrient and wastewater management

  • Water conservation use and protection

  • Forage cropping and agronomy

  • Food safety

  • Food science and manufacturing

  • Sustainable dairy/livestock production management

  • Soil health and fertility

Idaho CAFE would also provide interdisciplinary learning and research opportunities for higher education partners across the region. The University of Idaho will lead this effort and is actively seeking educational partnerships among higher education institutions and investments in research and infrastructure from the private sector.

“As Idaho’s statewide, land-grant institution, we view this endeavor as a critical asset for all of Idaho,” Staben said. “We look forward to partnering to create a dynamic research and educational center whose impact will position our state, its citizens and its industries for growth and opportunity well into the future.”

Media Contacts
Jodi Walker
Director, University Communications

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at