Idaho isn’t a large player in the U.S. wine industry, but state grapegrowers depend as much on local research as do growers in any other state.
When the word came abruptly in June that the Parma Research and Extension Center at the University of Idaho could close as a result of $3.2 million in cuts to state funding of the University of Idaho’s budget, growers of grapes and other crops spoke up.
The result was a reprieve for the center, one of a number of research facilities across the country that is subject to increasing pressure as states feel the pinch from reduced tax revenues and rising program costs during the current recession.
Now, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the university have announced that the center will remain open indefinitely. At a joint appearance with the university’s new president, M. Duane Nellis, Otter postponed the closure.
According to Gov. Otter, school officials had neglected to consult with Nellis and the state Board of Education prior to eliminating the center. Idaho law requires universities proposing to cut or spend between $250,000 and $500,000 to get approval from the board’s director; budget changes exceeding $500,000 must be approved by the full board.
“Part of what we promote as our jewel out here is the research center in Parma,” said Ron Bitner of Bitner Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho, and a member of the Caldwell/Canyon County Economic Development Council. “It’s really critical to the growth of the Idaho industry.”