PULLMAN, Wash. — “The legislature has done a great thing for farm and ranch families. This is the best state budget in the history of the Washington State University College of Agriculture and Home Economics.”
This was the reaction of James Zuiches, dean of the college, to word that the Washington State Legislature fully funded the $7.5 million Safe Food Initiative in the state’s 2000-2001 biennial operating budget approved late Sunday. SFI funding will begin in the second year of the biennium with an appropriation of $4.25 million. Future biennial budgets will fund SFI at $7.5 million.
CAHE also fared well with other requests.
WSU received $1.5 million and the University of Washington, $2.5 million for an Advanced Technology Initiative. WSU and the UW are exploring combining $500,000 apiece of their appropriations to create a new research cluster for precision agriculture and forestry.
The operating budget includes $904,000 for three new off-campus learning centers, which WSU will establish in cooperation with Skagit Valley Community College, Walla Walla Community College and Grays Harbor College. This will bring the number of WSU’s off-campus learning centers to 11. CAHE administers these centers through WSU Cooperative Extension.
CAHE also received $500,000 in each year of the biennium for the Washington Commission on Pesticide Registration.
The capital budget, also passed Sunday, includes $2.78 million for design of a building to house apparel, merchandising and interior design, and landscape architecture.
The budget also includes $300,000 for pre-design of an addition to Johnson Hall for plant biotechnology research and added teaching facilities.
The budget now goes to Gov. Gary Locke, who is expected to sign it into law.
“The Safe Food Initiative focused Washington’s agricultural community, which rallied to support their request. This success speaks not only to the importance of the work that will be done through SFI funding, but to what agricultural interests can accomplish when they speak with one voice,” Zuiches said.
SFI funding will allow WSU to hire 20 new faculty and 20 new technical support staff to fill critical positions in three WSU colleges the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Sciences.
Zuiches said the state’s $7.5-million investment in SFI could return $200 million a year to Washington’s economy while reducing pesticide use, improving production efficiency and enhancing food safety from farm to table.
Three major objectives of the Safe Food Initiative are:
ENSURE SAFE FOOD
Ensure safe food products for domestic and global markets by elimination of risks from food-borne pathogens. New positions would include a food microbiologist to develop new methods and techniques to detect food-borne pathogens and eliminate them in fresh and processed Washington food products, and an urban/rural agriculture specialist to work with small farms.
Protect food crops from devastating pests through new crop protection techniques and materials. Among other things, new resources will help WSU further develop insect management techniques that could help reduce pesticide use and save the tree fruit industry $5 million to $15 million annually. A new fruit pathologist will help develop pre-harvest disease management strategies that will decrease reliance on fungicides. A plant pathologist will work on vegetable and vegetable seed diseases at WSU’s Mount Vernon Research and Extension Unit. Reducing the impact of diseases in apple, cherry and pear crops by only one percent would generate $15 million in additional revenue annually.
SAFE, ECONOMICAL PRODUCTION
SFI funds will help farmers and ranchers produce food safely and economically while minimizing the impacts on water and soil. A new animal waste management specialist stationed in western Washington will work with dairy scientists to reduce nitrates in manure by 25 percent. This will improve groundwater, streams and rivers and help protect fisheries. Ten million acres of rangeland, most of it in Eastern Washington, provide forage for the state’s $400-million livestock industry. A new rangeland specialist will provide new grazing strategies and land management approaches that will help improve range and livestock productivity by $20 million over the next five years.
For more information, go to http://ext.wsu.edu/safefood on the World Wide Web or call Pete Jacoby, associate dean, WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics at (509) 335-4561.
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