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Ag Research Sees Increased Support

Location: Washington, DC

Ag Research Sees Increased Support
Senate committee expands agricultural research and development in Idaho

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A number of agriculture-related projects for Idaho were approved today by a Senate subcommittee. The Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies passed its fiscal year 2006 bill.

Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who serves on the Subcommittee, announced the support for several projects important to Idaho. He stated, "This bill is vital to our farmers to help them develop better crops and conserve and manage the land under their care. As consumers, Idahoans and all Americans benefit from improved food at the store and a healthier economy. Overall, this bill represents fiscally-responsible support for agriculture and our rural communities."

While start-up projects are rare in this bill, the following new Idaho projects are included:

Billingsley Creek Aquaculture Facility Construction ($1 million) - The University of Idaho Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station (HFCES), an ARS-UI partnership, is a leading center for research on cool and coldwater aquatic species. Existing facilities at HFCES are good for experimental laboratory-scale research studies but, according to an ARS feasibility study, are "inadequate to meet ARS research needs." In FY05, $1,000,000 was appropriated for planning and design for the new structures. This request would provide the $1,000,000 needed to begin construction of facilities for spawning, incubation, and rearing of multiple families of rainbow trout at Billingsley Creek. These new facilities, when added to new UI facilities being constructed at HFCES, would provide state-of-the-art laboratory and office space.

CSI Irrigation Pumps and Water Conservation ($250,000) - The College of Southern Idaho (CSI), in an effort to conserve water for community resident use in the City of Twin Falls, will use funds to add three additional surface water irrigation pumps for the 233-acre campus. Installation of one pump is currently operational and has proven a successful combined effort between local engineers, ranchers, and municipalities.

Utilizing these pumps in connection with a well-developed canal system near CSI would provide a ready water resource and increase water conservation, thus relieving strains on the water uses in the area. By utilizing the canal, water can be pumped to irrigate the CSI campus and any water seepage will recharge the aquifer in the area.

Barley for Rural Development ($735,000) - At 43 million bushels annually and increasing, Idaho's malting barley production is the second largest in the nation. Feed barley represents of 28% of all barley production for a 2004 statewide total of 59.8 million bushels. This project, a collaboration between the University of Idaho and Montana State University, will develop specialty varieties for use in the human diet and animal feed, thereby expanding marketing potential for Idaho growers.

A number of existing projects received ongoing or increased support, including:

Aquaculture Research Initiatives - Idaho is a leader in the national aquaculture industry, producing over 70 percent of the nation's commercially grown rainbow trout. Idaho is also a major producer of grains, and has a strong grain research network in place. These two factors uniquely position Idaho to coordinate valuable research to develop innovative solutions for challenges facing the aquaculture industry. These solutions include development of grain-based, low-pollution fish feeds needed to allow continued economical production of rainbow trout while meeting new regulations concerning the impact of fish farming on the aquatic environment.

Funds will be used to support an ARS scientist assigned to the University of Idaho's Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station. Funds will also be used to rear and maintain broodstock from selected strains and family lines, and to support multi-location operational and partnership activities with the University of Idaho.

National Small Grains Germplasm Facility - The ARS barley research program at the NSGGRF at Aberdeen, Idaho includes genetic improvement of feed and malting barleys using the latest molecular genetic tools. Recent cutting edge research focusing on the development of low phytic acid grains for fish, swine and poultry diets is constrained by inadequate funds to support new initiatives.

Traditionally the barley improvement efforts at Aberdeen have focused on testing at a few field locations. Expanding the capacity of the program to test at more locations, using newer automated and computerized field procedures, would greatly enhance the quality of the trials and the number of materials that could be tested. This would increase the program's ability to generate new barley cultivars and to more quickly move valuable traits from the laboratory to growers' fields.

The benefit to the Idaho and Pacific Northwest small grains industries will include the more rapid development of barley cultivars that are adapted to the region and meet the exacting end-use specifications of global customers. Barley generates more than $337,000,000 in farm-gate receipts in the Pacific Northwest region annually.

Sugar Beet Research - 230,000 acres of sugar beets are grown in Idaho and eastern Oregon and there is a great need for sugar beet research for this growing area with its unique challenges. There is an existing USDA/ARS research station in Kimberly Idaho, in the heart of the beet-growing area. Funds will support a sugar beet unit at this station, including a Physiologist, an Irrigation Specialist, and an Agronomist / Crop Fertility Specialist.

Brucellosis Eradication - The Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee (GYIBC) is working to coordinate federal, state, and private actions involved in eliminating brucellosis from wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area and preventing transmission of this disease from wildlife to livestock.

Affected areas include parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, as well as including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and areas of public, state, and private lands adjoining those areas. Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge are at the heart of the wildlife brucellosis pool.

Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are each required by law to manage brucellosis-infected wildlife within their borders in order to prevent the spread of brucellosis to non-infected wildlife, cattle or domestic bison. However, with the parks and refuge providing an uncontrolled pool for reinfection, the states are limited in what they can accomplish without federal cooperation. Funds will help provide that needed federal cooperation.

Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research (NWCSFR) - Idaho's climate, soil types, and access to irrigation allow a variety of crops to thrive here as in few other places around the country. Of these crops, one of the fastest growing with great potential for domestic and world market development is Idaho's emerging wine and grape industry. A variety of USDA/ARS and university research programs in the Northwest Center for Small Fruit Research (NWCSFR) directly and indirectly support Idaho's grape and wine industry.

There are 25 wineries in Idaho, with 30 other producers growing grapes for sale to wineries around the region. Wine is a high-value added crop for Idaho, amounting to a $40,000,000-plus a year industry in the state according to the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission.

This ARS research complements the program under CSREES Special Grants for the NWCSFR, which benefits the wine and grape industry of the entire Pacific Northwest.

Tri-State Predator Control - Under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Services introduced 15 wolves into Idaho in January 1995 and 20 more in 1996. Following reintroduction, the wolf population has grown steadily through natural reproduction and dispersal. Currently, 27 breeding pairs reside in Idaho and a minimum population of 420 wolves has been established.

Nineteen known wolf groups overlapped active livestock grazing allotments in Idaho during 2004. Confirmed and probable wolf-caused livestock losses during the year amounted to 19 cattle and 173 sheep. In addition, 3 dogs were confirmed killed by wolves. As a result of agency control actions, 17 wolves were lethally controlled.

The ability of Wildlife Services to respond effectively and in a timely manner is extremely important, and as wolf populations increase in Idaho, the problems created by this expanding population are also expected to increase. Monitoring and adequate funding for responding to wolf depredations is critical. The Tri-State Predator Control funding will be shared between Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to fund predator control activities.

Potato Breeding Research - A progressive potato breeding program is in place at Aberdeen, Idaho. Continued funding will be used to provide for the development of a strong molecular biology program component to speed the incorporation of disease resistance from wild potato species into the cultivated potato.

Cool Season Food Legume Research - The University of Idaho is the lead institution for coordinating multidisciplinary research in Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, and North Dakota on cool season food legumes. The industry is actively involved in setting priorities and selecting research projects. The technology being generated is essential for the pea, lentil, and chickpea industries to remain competitive and profitable. Research being conducted cooperatively by federal and state university scientists focuses on identification of genetically superior varieties in the breeding program; management of nematodes, insects, plant disease and weeds; the reduction of soil erosion and improvement in water quality; and the development of value-added new products.

Idaho ranks second only to Washington State in the production of cool season legumes. These crops are important export commodities, as well as valuable rotation crops with the region's primary cash crop, wheat. An aggressive cooperative research program between the USDA and several universities including Washington State University in Pullman, Washington and the University of Idaho continues to seek new, high-yielding, high-quality, nutritious dry pea, lentil, and chickpea varieties to meet producer and consumer demands.

Potato Variety Development - Cooperative plant breeding projects with USDA-ARS scientists at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center and Washington State University have significantly decreased the time required to develop new potato varieties, and greatly improved selections of Russet Burbank for the state, region, and nation. In particular, the research station at Aberdeen, Idaho has produced eight new potato varieties, and has participated in the development of twelve other varieties nationwide. The Aberdeen station will participate in the release of four new varieties this year.

An industrial advisory committee is working with the scientists to provide guidance and counsel. The research program provides critical support to the potato industry, which contributed over $700,000,000 in cash farm receipts to Idaho's economy.

Improving Safety and Shelf-life of Idaho Commodities - The primary goal of this project is to develop bioelectronic detectors that can quickly detect the presence of microbial pathogens in foods and food products. Bioelectronic detectors have the potential to be highly sensitive and easy to use and manufacture, and to provide near real-time diagnosis. These features will allow quick detection of microorganisms, helping to develop new methods for shelf-life preservation of these products as well as preventing distribution of contaminated food products. Moreover, bioelectronic detectors can be deployed to target bioterrorism issues encountered in agricultural commodities. The program takes advantage of the University of Idaho's expertise in food science, microbiology, molecular biology, and microelectronics.

This project is designed to take a pro-active approach to prevent the contamination of agricultural commodities with pathogens and toxins both at the farm level and in food processing and distribution. More rapid and sensitive detection methods for bacteria, toxins, and molds will be devised to quickly identify and track pathogens. Early and rapid detection of contaminants will allow early and effective detection and treatment. Current detection technology, which centers around gene amplification and cell culture procedures, often results in false positives or long detection times. A major goal of the proposed research is to create an intelligent (programmable) electronic detector that is sensitive and fast and has a wide range of applications.

Nez Perce Bio-Control Weeds Program - Biological weed control in the West has been used since the 1940s to reduce weed densities on range and wildlands where cultural and chemical control methods are not economically practical or feasible. Although biological control has been utilized for many years, there are limited agents available for widespread distribution. As a result, the transfer of biological control technology to the users has been slow.

Through partnerships and collaborative efforts with university researchers, the NPBC will utilize organism-rearing technology to improve mass rearing capabilities for biological control organisms. Through such efforts, the NPBC will increase the availability of agents for landowners and managers throughout the region. Biological control offers long-term management of invasive weeds and can be used in concert with other Integrated Pest Management approaches to weed management. As biological control organisms reduce the weeds' competitive edge over desirable and native vegetation, users of the region's wildland resources will benefit and become more aware, through technology transfer workshops and demonstration sites, of the benefits of a biological weed control approach.

Idaho One-Plan - The Idaho One-Plan is a unique collaboration of agencies, industries, and associations dedicated to assisting Idaho farmers and ranchers in their continuing natural resource stewardship responsibilities. The program was developed jointly with state and federal resource agencies, the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local commodity groups. By highlighting efficiencies provided by computer networking and mutually complimentary expertise, the Idaho One-Plan saves staff time, provides a valuable tool for conservation planners, eliminates duplication, and helps fulfill regulatory obligations. Among the topical areas where farmers and resources planners can participate are farm planning, nutrient and pest management, endangered species, waste and water management, and forestry.

Funds will be used to support ongoing activities and to develop new planning tools.

Northwest Wood Utilization Research - The Inland Northwest Forest Products Research Consortium is a cooperative effort between the Forest Products Department at the University of Idaho, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, the Wood Materials and Engineering laboratory at Washington State, and the private sector. It uses multi-disciplinary teams to bring expertise to the technology and training issues facing the industry, and to secure funding to perform critically needed research and outreach activities. The location of these institutions and the diverse and complementary expertise of their scientists, make them uniquely qualified to address the problems and help find opportunities associated with the harvest, processing, manufacture and use of Inland-Northwest tree species.

Grass Seed Cropping Systems - Over 90 percent of the nation's cool-season forage and turf grass seed are produced in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and the farm-gate value of this industry is estimated at $250,000,000. The effort to phase out open field burning is a serious and immediate threat to this industry. A coordinated research initiative has been developed between state agricultural experiment station scientists in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, and the USDA/ARS scientists at the National Forage Seed Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon to develop new, environmentally friendly, and sustainable agricultural technologies for the PNW grass seed industry. University of Idaho scientists are providing major effort and leadership to this important regional research effort.

Solutions to Economic and Environmental Problems (STEEP) - STEEP is an ongoing program to promote erosion control and water quality control in the Pacific Northwest, emphasizing grower participation and cooperation from around the region, as well as researchers from the regional land grant institutions. It has been an extremely successful multi-disciplinary program between Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and USDA-ARS scientists. The information generated has provided crucial guidelines for producers to meet conservation compliance requirements. New practices have enhanced wheat production on reduced tillage systems compared to "conventional" tillage. Estimates show that farmers in the Pacific Northwest annually receive $200,000,000 in benefits as a result of STEEP research. STEEP funds are awarded via a tri-state competitive review that involves both scientists and representatives of producers and industry.

Jointed Goatgrass Research - As a result of reduced tillage requirements for conservation compliance, a number of new pests are emerging as problems for wheat growers. Paramount among these problems is jointed goatgrass. Populations have rapidly increased in recent years to infest over 5,000,000 acres of wheat and 2,500,000 acres of fallow land. The grass weed causes loss of yield, reduced quality, and reduced value as an export commodity. Annually, this weed causes a total loss to the industry exceeding an estimated $150,000,000.

The goal of this research project, which involves scientists from major wheat producing states, coordinated through Washington State University to reduce the impact of jointed goatgrass on wheat production via a multidisciplinary national research effort among university and federal scientists. Research focuses on integrated weed management, population dynamics.

Canola Research - This is a nationwide research program to develop canola as an alternative crop. National Canola Centers around the country distribute these funds equally among the six regions. The University of Idaho has established a nationally prominent team of scientists working on canola/rapeseed crop genetics and management. Recent breeding initiatives at the University of Idaho are paving the way for production of other members of the canola family, including mustards for commercial mustard production, which will provide Idaho's farmers with another potentially valuable alternative crop.

Regional Barley Genome Mapping - The Barley Genome Mapping Project (BGMP) focuses on genomics research with short-term and intermediate-term outcomes relevant to barley growers and users, with an emphasis on mapping quality and disease-resistant genes. BGMP participants are also involved with more basic types of genomics research being supported by the National Science Foundation's National Plant Genome Initiative and USDA's National Research Initiative.

This research project seeks to identify the economically important agronomic and quality traits that can be incorporated into barley breeding programs in the Pacific Northwest, including the USDA-ARS breeding program at Aberdeen. All genetic stocks, probes, markers and data generated by this complex multi-institutional research program are publicly available for use nationwide.

Grain Legume Research - Funds will support a staff position within the USDA/ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit at Pullman that would ensure the ability to find solutions to diseases of dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas.

This position is vital to the pea and lentil industry, and is the only pathology position performing research on grain legumes. Funding has successfully identified resistance to Sclerotinia (White Mold) in lentils, and current work continues to find similar resistance in peas. This research is invaluable in improving the quality of these products.

Great Basin Rangeland Project - Western juniper has invaded about 7.5 million acres of rangeland in OR, ID, CA, NV, and UT during the past 100 years. This species consumes large amounts of water and therefore, in some cases, limits streamflow and groundwater recharge. Limited research exists to adequately address this subject. The Great Basin Rangeland project (Burns/Boise ARS) will allow for measurement of the actual impact of juniper invasion on hydrology and water yield.

The Great Basin Rangelands research project will determine whether juniper control can improve water yield and watershed function. Western states are currently in the sixth year of drought and research in this area will act to conserve water resources for wildlife ecosystems, rangeland vitality, and agricultural and consumer use.

Yellow Star Thistle Research - Funds will support ongoing research efforts at the University of Idaho.

As members of their respective Appropriations Committees, Senator Craig and Idaho Representative Mike Simpson cooperate to ensure federal spending is restrained, tax dollars are appropriately spent, and that high-priority Idaho projects are included. Passage of this bill by the Subcommittee marks the first, but most important, step in the Senate's process. The differences between the House and Senate bills will be ironed out in a conference committee. The House passed its bill on June 8, 2005.

More information on the appropriations process is available at

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