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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Nov. 8, 2006

Regents back ISU's bio future

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's quest to be a major player in the development of biofuels received a pledge of support from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, during its Nov. 8 meeting.

During the Q&A portion of a presentation by Robert C. Brown, director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs, board president Michael Gartner asked Brown and President Gregory Geoffroy if they have a wish list. A new research facility and dollars to hire more faculty was their answer.

To be competitive, particularly in two upcoming research proposals going to the BP energy company (later this month) and the U.S. Department of Energy (by Feb. 1, 2007), Geoffroy said the wish list includes:

  • A central research facility with an estimated cost of $20 to $25 million
  • More faculty members in this area, at a cost of about $3 million

But, Geoffroy said, the long-term wish list requires more than money.

"If you look at the big picture, we need Iowa as a state to step up and recognize that the area of biorenewables is so important to the future of this state, and for our state leaders to make a strong commitment for continued support of Iowa's universities, which is the backbone of this effort," he said. "All this is happening, all these companies are coming here, because of the expertise we have at the universities.

"We all know what's happened to our budgets over the last number of years. If Iowa truly wants to maintain this leadership position, it's vital for our elected representatives to support our universities at a level that will allow us to compete nationally and globally," Geoffroy said. "If that doesn't happen, we cannot compete."

Current funding: Pieced together

Geoffroy said the university currently is piecing together funding for the bioeconomy initiative with internal reallocations, private donations from organizations such as Cargill and Iowa Farm Bureau, one-time state funds received through the Grow Iowa Values Fund and Battelle initiatives, and grants brought in by faculty.

Gartner said that as the board prepares to approach Legislative leaders about funding needs for the regent universities, it's important that "we're all talking with the same voice."

In other business, the board approved Iowa State's proposal for a Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, to be jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and ISU Extension. Roger McEowen, associate professor in agricultural education and studies, will be the center's director. The center's purpose is to provide up-to-date information to ag producers and other professionals who support them, such as real estate agents, attorneys, lenders and policy makers.

ISU has provided this service since the mid-1960s, but creating a center is intended to give it a higher profile.

Summary

At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, pledged support to ISU's quest to become a leader in the future of biofuels. The board also approved a proposal for a Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation to be run jointly by the College of Agriculture and ISU Extension.