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Legislation introduced to expand Board of Regents authority regarding agricultural research land

Last week the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges of the Wisconsin Legislature held a hearing on Senate Bill 571, legislation that would provide the college flexibility in managing agricultural research land holdings. Agricultural Research Station Director Dwight Mueller and Associate Dean for External Relations Heidi Zoerb testified in support of the legislation.

The bill would allow for reinvestment of proceeds from the sale of CALS’s agricultural research lands back into research infrastructure by returning oversight to the Board of Regents, rather than the State Building Commission. The 2013-2015 Biennial Budget included provisions shifting control from the Regents to the state more generally.

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The research station network is already facing critical challenges due to a lack of appropriate research land. At the Arlington station, there is an insufficient land base to support the increased demand for crop research and the forage needs of our 500-cow dairy research facility. The current Arlington footprint includes some rented acres that the current owners may soon want to sell. The Marshfield station faces similar challenges, where 100 rented acres may also soon be on the market. Without the funds to purchase this land, both stations’ available land base will shrink.

This legislation would allow the college to generate income to purchase research land by granting the authority to sell parcels currently included in our Agricultural Research Station network. With this flexibility, the college will have the ability to respond more quickly to pressures that may arise at the stations.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon). Representatives Keith Ripp (R-Lodi), Edward Brooks (R-Reedsburg), Mary Czaja (R-Irma), Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa), Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) and Al Ott (R-Forest Junction) are sponsoring an Assembly version of the bill, Assembly Bill 717. The Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities is expected to hold a hearing on this matter on Thursday, Jan. 28.

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