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CALS dean’s new role a nod to importance of agriculture

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

MOSCOW, Idaho – The additional role that the dean of University of Idaho’s agriculture college has assumed not only positions him to complete some big-ticket infrastructure initiatives for the land grand university. It also recognizes the important role that farming and ranching play in Idaho and in principle gives the state’s agriculture industry more direct access to the U of I president.

Michael Parrella, the dean of U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, recently assumed the dual role of serving as special assistant to the president for agricultural initiatives.

“It’s a recognition, I think, of the importance of agriculture and the college,” Parrella told Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “So, in a sense, it’s respect for the industry.”

Parrella said the new title is also an acknowledgement of “the tremendous success we’ve had in the college in recent years.”

The CALS dean reports directly to the provost so the new title provides more direct access to the U of I president. As a result, Parrella told IFBF, industry also has a more direct line to the president now.

Parrella’s new role “gives us more access to central administration and a connection to the president,” said Idaho Dairymen’s Association Executive Director Rick Naerebout. “It’s absolutely a win.”

CALS oversees nine agricultural research and Extension centers around the state, where researchers study complex agronomic issues important to Idaho’s farming and ranching community. The college also maintains Extension offices in 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties and three reservations.

The college has more than 240 faculty located on its Moscow campus and throughout the nine research and Extension centers.

Since becoming dean of CALS in February 2016, Parrella has told industry that he didn’t become dean to maintain the status quo at the ag college.

Since taking the helm, he has begun or continued several big-ticket initiatives, including major upgrades of the university’s Parma Research and Extension Center, seed potato germplasm lab and meat science center, and a new headquarters facility for the university’s Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon.

He has also spearheaded a $45 million project known as CAFE that will be the nation’s largest and most advanced research center targeting the dairy and allied industries. That project will include a demonstration farm, food processing research, and workforce development training for the state’s agricultural industry.

Under Parrella’s tenure, CALS has also acquired an organic agriculture center in Sandpoint and recently opened the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey.

The CALS dean’s new role “also recognizes the dean for everything he has done for the college, all those capital projects that are going to benefit agriculture,” Naerebout said.

During a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the college’s new, $14 million meat science center, U of I President C. Scott Green told several hundred people he is a big fan of Parrella.

“He has many projects that are really incredible and doing important things for the state of Idaho,” Green said.

“His reputation with industry leaders allows for a deep collaboration and valuable return for producers in all agricultural sectors,” Green said in a news release announcing the new role. “He leads a team that has achieved record-breaking donations and research funding, innovative infrastructure upgrades and development and increased enrollment.”