Future of Haskell Ag Lab is secure but changing
When the Governor of Nebraska proposed a budget cut of 4 percent to be handed down to entities such as Wayne State College and the University of Nebraska, programs and services offered by them headed for the chopping block.
On that list for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) was the Haskell Agriculture Lab located east of Concord.
The research and educational facility was established in 1957 after the Haskell family donated the ground necessary to construct the lab.
At 480 acres, the lab offers plenty of space for educational and research opportunities on crops, soil quality, livestock and weed control among a plethora of other subjects.
When the university was looking at ways to meet the proposed 4 percent budget cut, unfortunately, Haskell Ag Lab was one of two areas that would see drastic measures taken. In the case of the lab, it was proposed to be cut completely.
"It was a proposed cut to close the Haskell Ag Lab and proposed significant reduction in the Rural Futures Initiative budget," said Dr. Michael Boehm, Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL. "The president went before the appropriations committee along with many others and gave specific examples of what cuts might look like if that 4 percent would stick."
Four percent may not seem like a whole lot, but according to Boehm, that figure would have landed around $23.2 million dollars for the university.
So when the unicameral decided against the large cut and instead voted on lowering that percent from 4 to 1, people were understandably happy.
"The good news in this, that sounds odd to say, is that thankfully it was only a 1 percent cut. That's a lot more manageable."
That 1 percent equates to roughly $5.9 million, which is still a sizable amount, so they didn't get by unscathed, Boehm said.
However, that 1 percent budget reduction can be handled by the university without the closure of the Haskell Ag Lab, he said.
A relief to the many faculty members, students and producers who have come to rely on the facility for their jobs, their education and the success of their businesses.
That being said, however, the lab is in for some changes in the coming years if all plays out as Boehm hopes.
"It would have been a tragedy to have to close the Haskell Ag Lab strictly due to a budget cut without having the opportunity to have a conversation with the citizens of northeast Nebraska first," Boehm said. "I want to use this opportunity that we have now to have that conversation with stakeholders and partners and ask simple questions - how are we doing, what's working, what's not working, what should we be doing more or less of -- just a real honest conversation."
To find out more about the futue of Haskell Ag Lab, pick up a copy of the May 3rd edition of The Wayne Herald.