LSU board agrees to agricultural consolidation

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU will consolidate the administration of its main campus College of Agriculture and the university system's AgCenter, four decades after they were split, under a plan approved Friday by the LSU Board of Supervisors.

The merger was recommended by new LSU System President and Chancellor King Alexander and approved without objection. It will be phased in over several months, with completion set for March, according to documents provided by the board.

The AgCenter helps Louisiana businesses and oversees agricultural extension and research services with 17 research stations around the state and extension service offices in all 64 parishes. The College of Agriculture teaches students and readies them for careers in the field. More than 150 of the employees overlap, holding jobs with both entities.

Alexander and AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson told the board that the merger will help create efficiencies and better coordinate research activities. Alexander said it will also strengthen student training and agricultural work across the state.

"There's no greater asset to a land grant university than agriculture," Alexander said. He added, "We can reach more families, help more people and do more for the citizens of Louisiana" with the consolidation.

The two entities operated together until 1972, when the board chose to divide them.

Under the consolidation, the current dean of the College of Agriculture, Kenneth Koonce, will step down from his administrative role and return to the faculty Oct. 8, and Richardson will assume those responsibilities in a new position as the vice president for agriculture.

LSU board member Ronnie Anderson, who is president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, praised the consolidation. He said it had the support of the agricultural community around Louisiana.

"I had an opportunity to visit with farmers and legislators and other folks around the state, and I've not had a negative comment about doing this," Anderson said.

Shortly after the LSU board vote, the AgCenter and the College of Agriculture announced they are merging their dairy science programs over nine months to "better integrate the research, extension and teaching efforts."

The AgCenter's research station in Franklinton includes a dairy farm, and the College of Agriculture runs a separate farm whose cows will be moved to the AgCenter station.

"A larger-scale dairy will allow us to expand our research program. We'll be able to do more projects and projects that require greater numbers of animals," said Phil Elzer, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor and program leader for animal sciences, in a statement.

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