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College of Ag and SARE program receive $4 million research grant

August 30th, 2013 Posted in Education

By Addison M. T. Hall

LOGAN — The College of Agriculture at Utah State University and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education group (SARE) have been receiving government grants to help the western region of the U.S. become more agriculturally self-sustaining. Professor V. Phillip Rasmussen, director of the Western SARE Center, says the most recent grant of approximately $4 million would help to make farming and raising cattle more efficient and environmentally safe.

Rasmussen said the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives roughly $3 million each year for research grants and $1 million a year to train agricultural professionals. He said the money is distributed to people with ideas on how to make agriculture better and safer.

“Every year we send out calls for proposals and researchers send us proposals for projects that will research making agriculture more sustainable,” Rasmussen said. “Which means a lower environmental footprint, using less fertilizers and pesticide, less diesel fuel … anything that will make it more sustainable in the long term.”

He said the research will help not only the farmers but the communities around them. He gave an example of one area under the western SARE program, the Commonwealth of Micronesia.

“One of the things we found is that the people out in the islands were a microcosm of sustainability. For example, if they apply too much pesticides. If we apply it here in Utah it may take 80 years to get down into the ground water… but on those island sands, if they misapply pesticides, it’s in their groundwater in a year.”

USU professor Robert Newhall, deputy SARE Coordinator for the western U.S, said the $4 million given to the western SARE program is a lot for them, but is still considered “budget dust” when compared to other projects given by the federal government.

“We wish it was larger,” Newhall said. “We would make a lot larger, huger impact.” He said the budget was small in comparison to other projects because of the area it covered. For example, with $4 million split up among 17 states and protectorates, Newhall said a state like California, which is the third largest agricultural producer in the world, would only receive $7,000.

The SARE program awards grants to around 60 different projects per year, which, Newhall said, include grants for farming and ranching, professional development, graduate student work and research.

NW

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