APLU Releases Study About Ag School Infrastructure
The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) has released A National Study of Capital Infrastructure at Colleges and Schools of Agriculture report. The study found that there is nearly $11.5 billion in needed repairs and renovations at the buildings and supporting facilities at the Land-Grant Universities that are authorized to receive funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The study was conducted for APLU by Gordian, a leader in facility and construction cost data, software, and expertise.
“Our enterprise accelerates technology adoption, growth of the agricultural and food marketplace, entrepreneurship, and public-private partnerships,” said Doug Steele, Vice President of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at APLU. “Still, the United States risks losing the ability to compete internationally if we ask our researchers and educators to conduct and deliver 21st-century results in facilities from the 1950s and 1960s. In order for these institutions to conduct cutting-edge research in areas such as food safety and security, they need cutting-edge research facilities, not buildings with failing utility systems, leaky roofs, and outdated equipment. Modernizing agricultural research infrastructure will not only solve an existing problem; it will allow us to seize a new opportunity by creating new jobs and repositioning us for a positive future.”
The study notes that 69% of the buildings at these schools, 97 Land-Grant Universities in total, are more than 25 years old and require urgent upgrades to remain safe and useful. Without action, the report states that the declining state of these facilities threatens to hinder critical research on food safety and security, natural resources, climate change, and other key matters.
Lack of updates is caused by the postponement of maintenance activities and capital investments, such as the repairs on property, facilities, and machinery. The research finds that state and federal investment would help institutions preserve the quality and integrity of agricultural research, education, and extension, and would create both short-term and long-term economic opportunities by creating approximately 200,000 new jobs.
J. Ernest Milton, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University and Director of the K-State Research and Extension wrote an opinion piece for The Topeka Capital-Journal on this issue. “At Kansas State University, we have seen the detrimental effects of this funding gap firsthand. Shellenberger Hall and the Feed Technology Building, two facilities central to delivering our one-of-a-kind bakery, feed, and milling science degrees, were rated “unsatisfactory” in the Kansas Board of Regents State University Deferred and Annual Maintenance Report.” Milton goes on to say, “by solving our infrastructure problems and investing in innovation, the benefits will reach far beyond colleges and schools of agriculture.”
“Modern agricultural research and education facilities serve as the backbone of science solutions,” Steele states in the report. “Invest now to affirm U.S. leadership on climate change research and adaptation, agricultural profitability, food safety, zoonotic disease preparedness, personalized nutrition, biosecurity, new biobased packaging, and energy innovations.”