A cow waits for its breakfast Oct. 15 at a dairy in Filer. 

TWIN FALLS — A $1 million donation now means the University of Idaho has $20 million to start work on the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), which will include the world’s largest research dairy.

The J.R. Simplot Co.’s $1 million donation brought the university’s commitment for CAFE to $10 million. That triggered a $10 million state appropriation to the school. The entire project is estimated to cost $45 million, with the remaining $25 million expected to come from a variety of partners.

The CAFE model is three-pronged. It will include a 540-acre, 2,000-head research dairy near Rupert, with associated farmland.

There will also be a discovery complex in Jerome, near U.S. Highway 93 and Interstate 84. That facility will aim to educate visitors about Idaho agriculture, and will include faculty, student and researcher housing.

The College of Southern Idaho will provide food science research capabilities and training for the CAFE.

The university plans to seek the Idaho State Board of Education’s approval next month to begin design work. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2021 and could wrap up in 2023. Researchers will start milking cows in 2024.

Soil sampling of farmland associated with the dairy site has already begun. Those 800 samples, and 4,000 pounds of soil, will help establish a baseline so that researchers can track changes in environmental conditions over time at the dairy and farm.

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