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High Plains Ag Lab nears fundraising goal to replace headquarters

Nebraska

A fundraising effort to build a modern office and laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's High Plains Agricultural Lab north of Sidney is nearing its goal. But organizers of the fund drive are hoping for more significant donations to help reach the goal.

The High Plains Ag Lab Building Project proposes construction of a new building with an estimated cost of about $500,000 to $550,000. To date, about $400,000 has been raised.

The new building would replace a 1940s-era structure that was part of the Sioux Army Ordnance Depot when the U.S. government gave the property to the university in 1970.

The campaign is conducted by a local building project committee and the University of Nebraska Foundation. Gifts can be made in the form of cash, grain, or pledges that can be paid off over three years.

It is hoped that money can be raised soon so construction can begin in early 2013, according to Barb Schlothauer, director of development for the University of Nebraska Foundation in the Panhandle. Schlothauer said the fund-drive organizers are pleased that so many individuals, foundations, and agricultural businesses have stepped up to support the project.

Although the goal is in sight, it is important that larger donations continue to come in, she stressed.

Private, tax-deductible donations are the sole source of the project, Schlothauer said. All gifts are given to the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the High Plains Ag Lab Building Fund.

The proposed facility would consist of a 2,400-square-foot building that would provide office space for visiting scientists and graduate students and provide a more suitable area for processing samples of grain and forage than now exists. It would include a laboratory and associated space for equipment and receiving; a conference room; and work stations for a farm manager and up to eight other staff, students or visiting scientists.

The existing building wasn't designed as a research facility. A small seed-cleaning lab is the only research laboratory.

Chairman of the HPAL Building Project Committee is Keith Rexroth of Sidney, who farms in the area and whose father was one of a local development group instrumental in getting the ag lab started.

HPAL, 6 miles northwest of Sidney, is a satellite unit of the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center. One-third of its 2,400 acres are used for dryland crop research and two-thirds is in pasture. The facility's mission is unique to the High Plains, a high-elevation, semi-arid crop region.

Five faculty members based in the Panhandle conduct the majority of the research, including a dryland cropping systems specialist, alternative crops breeder, cow-calf/range management specialist, entomologist and soil fertility specialist. Several technicians help carry out research projects, and other faculty and technicians also travel from Scottsbluff occasionally to work on research.

Date: 10/15/2012



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