Inside Iowa State
June 5, 1998
Lawmakers earmark funds for value-added ag, plant genetics
by Diana Pounds
Next fiscal year, ISU faculty and staff will tackle projects to add value to ag products and improve the economy of the state. They will build university expertise in a new field that meshes computer technology with plant genetics research. And they will study water contamination in Iowa.
The initiatives will be funded with new state appropriations and are a sign of confidence in work going on at Iowa State, said President Martin Jischke.
"The governor and lawmakers trust the expertise of our faculty and staff and our ability to deliver good value for the state's investment," Jischke said. "They treated Iowa State well during the recent legislative session, providing nearly $9.9 million for average 4 percent pay hikes and more than $1 million in new appropriations for special projects."
$916,000 to extension
A large portion of the new appropriations -- $766,000 -- will go to ISU Extension for a variety of projects to add value to agricultural products.
Stan Johnson, vice provost for extension, says extension will use the new state funds to create more links between ISU research centers and Iowa manufacturers, improve marketing and production systems for the specialty grains and oil seeds grown by Iowa farmers, and conduct research to help livestock producers and firms become more competitive.
An additional $150,000 appropriation to extension will fund a program, to be piloted in Polk County, that will teach urban and rural youth about Iowa agriculture.
"The appropriation to extension ties in with Extension 21, a blueprint for building an operation focused on improving Iowa's economy, assisting local governments and schools and making the state a more attractive place to live," said Carol Bradley, director of governmental relations.
"Value-added agriculture is one way that you add diversity to the rural economy," Bradley said. "It brings more and higher paying jobs to the state and helps to improve the quality of life."
$200,000 to bioinformatics
State lawmakers also appropriated $200,000 to help Iowa State develop expertise in "bioinformatics," a new field that harnesses the latest computer technology to analyze the vast amount of genetic information that is being amassed in plant sciences research.
"Scientists currently inject DNA extracted from one plant into another, then wait a growing season to see results," said Gary Steinke, associate director for governmental relations. "It's now possible to simulate the process on a computer and do in a millisecond what once took a growing season."
Iowa State will get a headstart in the new field of bioinformatics by recruiting an additional expert in biology and statistics to collaborate with plant molecular biologists and geneticists on campus in creating a center of excellence in plant sciences, Steinke said. Iowa State also will compete for federal funding that will be awarded to universities that are best prepared to study plant genes using powerful computer technologies, he added.
"This seed money is a big step forward for Iowa State's plant sciences program," Steinke said. "We are especially grateful to Derryl McLaren, senate appropriations chair and a very forward-thinking farmer, who understands agriculture and how this kind of center relates to the broader picture of providing food for the world."
$300,000 for water quality study
Lawmakers also appropriated $300,000 to Iowa State for a water quality study. ISU researchers, in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will design and conduct studies of groundwater and surface water contamination in the state. ISU researchers' previous work in this area, particularly their studies of livestock waste lagoons, earned the university the latest research assignment from lawmakers, Steinke said. "It is a real tribute," he added.
$7 million in reallocations
Through internal reallocations in next year's budget, more than $7 million will be shifted into programs that support Iowa State's six strategic planning goals. Nearly 39 percent of the reallocated money will go to Iowa State's top goal of improving undergraduate education, and 30 percent will go toward improving graduate education and research.
The total state appropriation to Iowa State will increase by more than $11 million to nearly $251 million next fiscal year. That's a 4.7 percent increase from the current year.
The State Board of Regents will review the FY99 budget this month. ISU will submit it for final approval in July.
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