booming new mexico state university agricultural college slated for new facility construction and renovation
A New Mexico State University program that, according to a recent independent study, has a more than $266 million annual state economic impact, may soon see the construction of three modern research and learning facilities.
“The need here is really great,” says Rolando Flores, the dean of NMSU’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
“You can’t imagine the condition of the facilities we are right now working in,” continues Flores, noting that those structures are more than 30 years old and have outlived their usefulness.
“We have actually lost students because we don’t have the modern facilities we need to compete,” he adds.
All of that may change if New Mexico voters in November approve the $128 million General Obligation Bond D, which will provide funding for a series of higher education facility projects across the state.
Of that amount, $25 million will go for building a new Food Science, Security, and Safety Facility; along with a Biomedical Research Center; and Animal Nutrition and Feed Manufacturing Center.
Those facilities will be built at three different locations on the busy main NMSU Las Cruces campus.
In an interview this spring with the university’s Panorama magazine, NMSU System Chancellor Garrey Carruthers remarked that “after generations of use, many of our agricultural facilities are growing old and in need of repair.”
Passage of Bond D, continued Carruthers, will not only provide the funding needed for new facilities, but will also “add new dimensions to our research, including food safety and security.”
According to NMSU officials, a modern Food Science, Security, and Safety building will enhance the abilities of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to expand its work in the areas of beer and wine-making, food processing, and dairy science.
The Biomedical Research Center will be built to provide research facilities for students throughout NMSU, but will also see work on cancer, obesity, and mosquito-borne virus issues.
The Animal Nutrition and Feed Manufacturing Facility will house courses in animal and range sciences, with space for the investigation of new food processes and blends.
“The facilities are all interconnected,” explains Flores. “In one, we are developing feeds for growing protein in this state, and I am talking about beef or any other kind of animal.”
“Then we go to the Food Science, Security, and Safety facility—and the major goal there is to increase value added,” Flores continues. “Finally, the biomedical center is where we can actually work with science, which is looking at how food affects you.”
The bond-funded work, says Flores, is more important than simply building improved facilities for NMSU students and faculty members, although it clearly means more modern and high-tech lab and classroom space.
It is also a response to the university’s role in the larger challenge of providing food for a growing world.
“We are at a point in the history of agriculture in New Mexico where we cannot just do remedial stuff,” says Flores, “we need to get ready for big changes, retake control of our agriculture, and position it in New Mexico for the future.”
In September the Columbus, Ohio-based TEConomy Partners, a management consulting company, evaluated NMSU’s overall College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Services and judged the institution as a “unique and valuable resource for the state.”
The report also noted that the continuing number of students who study and graduate at the college “helps ensure the agbioscience industry in New Mexico remains globally competitive, and that the education of students provides a broad range of benefits to the individual, to society at large, and to the State of New Mexico.”
Through the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, NMSU also partners with any number of government agencies, private industry, and the surrounding community both in conducting research as well as providing tomorrow’s workforce.
This means, according to the TEConomy report, that the “hard work of ranchers, farmers, and processors,” is both supported and enhanced by the school’s “agbioscience research, developing new technologies and practice innovations.”
Passage of the general bond will also provide additional funding to the tune of $1.4 million for facility construction, renovations, and upgrades on the NMSU campus in Alamogordo; $1.6 million for the Carlsbad campus; $1.5 million for the Grants campus; along with $1.7 million for a variety of projects at Dona Ana Community College.
By Garry Boulard