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November ballot includes funding for NMSU agricultural modernization


Voter approval of General Obligation Bond Issue C on this year’s general election ballot will allow New Mexico State University to continue to address important health and biomedical research issues, NMSU President John Floros said. And it will continue construction of the first new buildings on the ag campus in more than 20 years.

In the current public health crisis, “many of the issues we are trying to address have been brought to the surface,” Floros said, in public health, livestock management, food safety and security, water quality and conservation and technology, along with the need to address infrastructure improvements on NMSU’s main campus and at its community colleges in Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants.

A new biomedical research building, for example, will allow NMSU to enhance the cancer and virus-related research its already doing, Floros said.

It would “probably surprise a lot of people” to know how much biomedical research takes place in the ag college at NMSU, he said.

With bond funds, NMSU scientists, researchers and faculty members “will be a lot more competitive” as they seek grants and contracts, and the university will be able to train many more students “to be leaders” in health and biomedical research and related fields, he said. Funds will help pay for NMSU “research today and tomorrow to solve problems our industry, region and country are facing,” Floros said, and the ability to “do it in a completely new environment.”

If approved by voters, GO Bond C will provide $30.46 million for construction, renovation and modernization projects across the NMSU system, including $18 million for biomedical and agricultural facilities at its Las Cruces campus, NMSU said in a news release.

“We haven’t built any facilities for our ag campus since 1999,” Floros said, noting that NMSU is the state’s ag school and that 20 percent of the state’s GDP comes from agriculture.

Technology improvements made with bond funds will enhance online education capabilities, Floros said, in “a future that may not be all face to face, where connectivity is very, very important at any time and an place all throughout the state.”

The first phase of NMSU’s Agricultural Modernization and Educational Facilities project, which is currently in the design and planning process, is supported by $25 million in general obligation funding approved by voters in 2018. The New Mexico Legislature approved $18 million of the $25 million requested by NMSU in the 2020 bond issue for the project’s second phase, which will focus on improved laboratory, research and classroom spaces for the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).

NMSU Architect Heather Watenpaugh said plans for the agriculture district at NMSU’s Las Cruces campus include new facilities, renovations and demolition designed to provide premier agriculture education facilities for teaching and outreach, increase hands-on experiential learning, increase opportunities to partner with industry leaders, and support safety with facility design.

The ACES Student Learning and Livestock Outreach Center will provide a central location for both experiential and distance learning models, as instructors create innovative hybrid lessons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also offer a space for community youth events and therapeutic riding sessions and will be a future home for statewide 4‐H and FFA conferences when they can safely be held in person.

“These new and modernized facilities will provide a central location to teach and conduct cross-disciplinary biomedical research,” said College of ACES Dean Rolando A. Flores. “With the right tools and facilities, NMSU research teams can continue their work to help the world understand, prevent and manage disease outbreaks. Building and updating these facilities supports NMSU’s mission to serve the people of New Mexico through teaching, research and extension.”

ACES advances NMSU’s mission by being an engine for the economic and community development of New Mexico. Agriculture and food processing industries generated nearly $11 billion and 51,000 jobs for the New Mexico economy, according to a recent study. Modernization and expansion of learning environments helps to create an agricultural workforce prepared to advance the industry and grow New Mexico’s economy.

The last major facility added to the agriculture district at NMSU’s Las Cruces campus was Skeen Hall, constructed in 1999 as the Center for Sustainable Development of Arid Lands. Much of the agriculture district, the campus livestock, education and research center, consists of dilapidated and disused facilities whose conditions and use do not align with the ACES needs or the academic advancement trajectory of NMSU in general, Flores said.

GO Bond C includes $3 million for NMSU’s statewide agricultural science centers, which support fundamental and applied research under New Mexico’s varied environmental conditions to meet the agricultural and natural resource management needs of communities in every part of the state. Without major repairs, significant building-system improvements and site remediation, Watenpaugh said those facilities will struggle to continue serving the needs of New Mexico’s diverse population.

The bond also includes $3 million for data-center infrastructure upgrades in Milton Hall and improvements to the information technology system campus‐wide to replace outdated or deficient systems.

Another $6.46 million will provide campus-wide infrastructure improvements, renovations and equipment at NMSU’s community college campuses in Grants, Doña Ana County, Carlsbad and Alamogordo.

In total, the 2020 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act will issue just over $156 million in general obligation bonds for institutions of higher education, special schools and tribal schools in New Mexico. For more information, visit gobond.nmsu.edu.

And, GO Bond B will provide $3 million statewide for university library resources, of which the NMSU system will receive a portion.

Contact Amanda Bradford at 575-646-3223 and ambradfo@nmsu.edu.