University of Idaho hopes to extend Simplot deal

Published online: Aug 24, 2013
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BOISE, Idaho (AP)-A University of Idaho official says the school is trying to extend an agreement with potato processing giant J.R. Simplot Co. to keep a cash-strapped agricultural research center in southwestern Idaho from closing.

University of Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean John Foltz said the school is "in the process" of extending the contract for the Parma Research and Extension Center.

"That relationship seems to be going very well," Foltz told the Idaho Business Review.

The school in 2009 reached a five-year agreement with J.R. Simplot Co. to keep the research center open until 2014.

The Parma center was founded in 1925 to sustain and improve the productivity of crops grown in southwest Idaho. It was one of three university research sites slated for closure because of state budget cuts.

Simplot spokesman David Cuoio told the newspaper that the Boise-based company's partnership with the research center is valuable, but he declined to make additional comments.

Extension centers in Parma and Tetonia both were set to be closed. They received support from the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition, the Barley Commission, the Wheat Commission, the Potato Commission and others to stay open.

In 2013, lawmakers replaced the money paid by those groups with $650,000.

"It has been a win-win for all parties involved considering it was a very difficult financial period," said University of Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director Donn Thill.

Foltz said he expects a new agreement to be similar to the existing one to keep the research center open.

"It's a source of innovation, potentially (a source of) intellectual property and a real source of funds," Foltz said. "The con is that people don't generally give you money for free. There are strings attached."