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Letter to the Editor: Something to moo about

HEADS UP PEOPLE: Feather River College (FRC) has an Agriculture program that is producing multiple Bachelors degree graduates each year. Agriculture is almost as important to FRC’s fiscal well-being as athletics. But, despite owning over a hundred acres of farmland and a bunch of barns and corrals, FRC doesn’t own a single horse or cow!

Now the answer to this peculiar situation has to do with the FRC Foundation. The Foundation is a 501 C-3 tax exempt outfit that purports to raise money to support College programs. And, it does. To the tune of reported gross receipts of $1,353,612 and assets of $5,484,197. Among other things, the Foundation appears to own the FRC dormitories as well as all the livestock.

Now you might ask why this is. Well, it turns out to provide some “cushy” arrangements for the College. The Foundation owns the livestock and they “loan” them to FRC for teaching purposes. The students get to ride, rope, and feed the stock. Throughout the year, the livestock live at FRC and the College pays for upkeep (feed, vet bills, grazing lease for pasture, etc.). So far, so good.

The kicker comes in when school is over and it’s time to sell surplus cows, calves and horses. Because the Foundation “owns” the stock, it arranges to dispose of the surplus. In fact, the annual FRC Production Horse Sale is a big money maker. BUT, the profits of these sales don’t go to FRC to payback the overhead costs. Nope, the profits go to the Foundation.   What exactly they do with these “profits” is not entirely clear, but they don’t go back into the FRC budget for animal maintenance.

So, the College’s investment in raising and caring for the cows and horses isn’t repaid with the profits of its work. As bad as that is from a fiscal perspective, it’s even worse for the students. After all, how do they learn if their work doesn’t result in a profit or loss? Are the farm management practices they’ve learned, economically efficient in the real world? No, is the answer.

If this strikes you as odd, it did me too, so I contacted livestock managers at UC Davis to see how things work there. I got very responsive answers from both their horse and beef managers. Turns out it is different.

To begin with, UC Davis owns all its own livestock. Their horse program depends solely on donated horses to make up its breeding herd. The foals from their program are to be raised by U.C. Davis students, and then sold at their annual production sale. All proceeds are to be returned directly to the university program.

The same is true of UCD’s beef program. The majority of their cattle are owned by the University and come from their commercial breeding program. The calves not used in research are fed at the University’s own feedlot and all the animals are cared for by staff and students. Cattle sold by UCD are owned by UCD and the income goes back into the beef program account to support operations.

It appears that UC Davis owns and manages its own livestock using profits from its operations. Meanwhile, FRC “borrows” stock from the Foundation, then feeds and maintains those animals using State funds (taxpayer dollars) throughout the year. FRC then returns the stock to the Foundation for their sale and the Foundations profit making.

That is a nice gig for some lucky rancher that loaned the cows! Imagine having free feed, and care for your livestock and a guaranteed profit to boot.

Perhaps FRC should consider adopting the UC Davis model of livestock management and program funding.

Dr. Trent Saxton

FRC Trustee, District 1

 

 

 

 

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