UW top priority for Ag Committee

Editors: Retransmitting to clarify that budget request was part of Mead's supplemental budget proposal.


UW top priority for Ag Committee


By Daniel Bendtsen

Laramie Boomerang

Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE — The state Legislature’s Management Council decided an evaluation of the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture will be the top priority for the Joint Agriculture, State & Public Lands & Water Resources Committee during the 2019 interim.

In a letter to Management Council, the agriculture committee’s co-chairmen said the scrutiny on the College of Agriculture would “help ensure the college is offering programs that are Wyoming-centered including rangeland management, ecology, high-altitude cattle management and ranch manager programs.”

Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, told council members that the goal of the committee’s work will make sure the College of Agriculture is “really focusing on the land grant mission.”

He said he wants the college to be “a really good training pipeline for our federal agencies in particular.”

That suggestion was shared by Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, who said the College of Agriculture should funnel more graduates into federal agencies when he proposed, during his work on the Joint Appropriations Committee, to have new funding for the college to be spent on rangeland management programming.

The Joint Appropriations Committee had originally agreed to a much more prescriptive mandate on what rangeland management programming UW should offer, despite Legislative Service Office staff noting such a mandate might “not be appropriate” because Wyoming statutes endow the Board of Trustees with the authority to establish programming.

Prior to the 2019 session, former Gov. Matt Mead, in his proposed supplemental budget, and UW administrators had asked for $5 million in additional programming funds to improve the College of Agriculture.

At a town hall meeting earlier this month, UW President Laurie Nichols said the goal of that new funding would have been to “begin to elevate the College of Agriculture to the level of excellence that we have with the College of Engineering.”

However, the Legislature only appropriated $500,000 for an “excellence in agricultural education and research endowment.”

Under the supplemental budget bill, UW is required to submit a report to the agriculture committee “on the efforts and outcomes on each of the permissible uses of endowment funds as well as development of priority degrees” regarding ranch and range management programs.

UW is currently undergoing a search for a new dean for the college. Bret Hess had served as interim dean until the trustees replaced him with Mark Stayton, emeritus associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, after a February executive session.

Stayton told the Legislature’s Management Council last week that a new permanent dean “can be announced in the next month or so.”

He said UW leaders are “very pleased to support this priority, and we’re happy to cooperate and engage on every level that’s involved in the process.”