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Chobani donates $1 million to help construct country's largest research dairy

Backers of the project say Idaho CAFE will combine research and education to support a sustainable future for Idaho's dairy, livestock, and farming industries.

RUPERT, Idaho — Chobani is putting $1 million towards the construction of the nation's largest research dairy, planned for the Magic Valley, as part of a push to push scientific research and sustainability forward.

The donation was made Wednesday to the University of Idaho-led Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Idaho CAFE.)

"Sustainability is part of the fabric of Chobani. Caring for our people and animals, conserving resources, putting back what we take – this is how we operate, and this is how dairy farmers operate," said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani Founder and CEO. "As more and more people – consumers, investors, and regulators focus on sustainability, the dairy industry must be part of the conversation. The dairy industry has a deep history of commitment to and leadership in sustainability, which must be honored. This is why the University of Idaho's leadership to establish this comprehensive and groundbreaking CAFE project is so important, and why we are so proud to support it."

According to Chobani, the research dairy will be operated like a commercial farm and will be the site of "a variety of ongoing research experiments" overseen by U of I faculty and staff. The findings from the site's research will be immediately applicable to dairy farms in Idaho and around the Western U.S., officials said.

Idaho CAFE includes a 2,000-cow research dairy and 640-acre demonstration farm in Rupert, as well as a Jerome-based education center and a food science program developed with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

"The Idaho CAFE project has been conceptualized for years but the need for this integrated research center is growing by the day," said Michael P. Parrella, Dean for the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "The dairy industry nationwide has set aggressive goals to become carbon neutral and maximize water quality and quantity among other environmental sustainability goals in the very near future. Chobani's investment in the Idaho CAFE research dairy highlights their partnership in this mission and pushes us closer to the finish line that is having this center operational and contributing to the cutting-edge research that develop environmental solutions for the dairy industry now and into the future."

Construction on the $22.5 million project is set to begin in June. The finished site will include facilities to house the milking and nutrient management operations.

The first stage of construction is set to wrap up next year, with U of I starting to milk cows at the Rupert location at that time. 

Backers of the project tout Idaho CAFE as a way to combine research and education to support a sustainable future for Idaho's dairy, livestock, farming, and food production industries. 

"Time and time again, Chobani has stepped up to invest in Idaho and the Magic Valley community. The Idaho CAFE project embraces the innovation happening across our agricultural sector," said Idaho Governor Brad Little.  "Chobani's latest commitment to Idaho CAFE is an investment in Idaho's economy and, importantly, Idaho's current and future workforce. A strong dairy industry supports jobs and our Idaho way of life. We are grateful to the leadership and employees at Chobani for their continued pledge to excellence, which helps us in reaching our goal to make Idaho the place where our children and grandchildren choose to stay."

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