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Expansion Begins on USDA Forage Research Facility

By Luis Pons
November 17, 2003

WOODWARD, Okla., Nov. 17—Ground was broken here today for a $13.7 million expansion and upgrade of an Agricultural Research Service facility where research on forage and livestock is conducted. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The three-phase expansion of the ARS Southern Plains Range Research Station (SPRRS) will increase the facility's laboratory, greenhouse and office space and allow for future expansion of the station's scientific staff.

"Since its inception in 1913, the Southern Plains Range Research Station has conducted studies that have improved the way forage has been grown and managed in this part of the nation," said Edward B. Knipling, acting ARS administrator. "This increase in research space and, eventually, in the scientific staff will make the facility an even greater asset to the livestock industry."

Speakers at today's ceremony included Charles Onstad, director of ARS' Southern Plains Area, which includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico; and Phillip Sims, director of the Woodward facility. Bruce Benbrook, president of the Stock Exchange Bank of Woodward, was the master of ceremonies.

The first phase of the expansion project includes construction of a 15,100-square-foot laboratory and office wing alongside the facility's 6,336-square-foot main building. It also includes the building of a 5,200-square-foot greenhouse, as well as electrical upgrades. The two remaining phases will involve construction of an additional office wing, another greenhouse and chemical storage facilities, plus renovation of existing buildings.

Scientists at SPRRS develop sustainable forage and livestock production practices and breed, select and release improved plant germplasm to enhance Southern Plains rangeland and pastureland.

The expansion work will take place at the research station's main campus in Woodward, which sits on about 480 acres of federal, 280 acres of state and 160 acres of county property. An additional resource, the Southern Plains Experimental Range, occupies approximately 4,300 acres of federal land. It is located about 15 miles from SPRRS, near historic Fort Supply, Okla.