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Kandiyohi Co., Minn., hopes to be in running for dairy research, teaching center

WILLMAR -- The Minnesota Department of Agriculture this week announced the formation of a new Dairy Research, Teaching and Consumer Education Authority whose main task will be to oversee the development of a dairy research and teaching facility.

Expect Kandiyohi County to make an aggressive effort to be named as a host site, members of the operating board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission were told Thursday.

"We've been working on this for two years. We've positioned ourselves very well," said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.

The dairy authority will be making the key decisions, so appointments to this panel will be an important part of the process, Renquist said.

The state has set a deadline of Aug. 27 for applications. The nine members will advise the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System on the design, development and operation of the dairy facility, which will combine research, teaching and consumer education.

Appointments will be made by Gov. Mark Dayton in consultation with Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

Kandiyohi County will more than likely face competition in the site selection process, Renquist said.

But he believes the county can be a strong contender. One of the assets: the dairy management program at Ridgewater College, which provides training in all aspects of dairy herd health, production and management.

Another critical piece is the newly opened Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center on the MinnWest Technology Campus. The center operates in partnership with the University of Minnesota and has given the university a strong existing presence in Willmar, Renquist said.

Adding a dairy program to the outreach center would further broaden this, he said. "It's the lever that we're using. They could put their research offices on that campus."

Preliminary estimates to develop the dairy research and education center are in the $30 million to $35 million range and include the development of an operating dairy as a research and teaching facility.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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