MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Washington State University has announced its intention to build new laboratories and other facilities at the WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Unit. The full project, estimated at more than $6 million, could begin as early as this year.

Last Friday (Jan. 24) WSU President V. Lane Rawlins; Greg Royer, vice president for business affairs; and Jim Zuiches, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, met with about 25 Skagit Valley agricultural and community leaders to discuss needs and plans for the future.

The group discussed the value of the WSU research and extension program to this vital economic region of the state. Zuiches said central to the discussion was the long-standing need for construction of laboratories and other facilities, a need that has been recognized by the strategic planning effort of the college and discussed by the university’s budget council.

Rawlins and Royer said the university will move ahead with the pre-planning for these facilities. The community has also pledged land and monetary support to make this research station project an even greater success.

“We have been making do for decades with inadequate facilities at the Mount Vernon unit. Utilities, labs and offices all are inadequate for the kind of research that we now do,” Zuiches said.

The facility was built 55 years ago. Scientists are literally doing research in trailer houses and every space available.

Some of the research at the Mount Vernon Research and Extension Unit has state-wide application, but its main focus is on supporting agricultural industries in the five northwestern Washington counties: Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom.

The Washington Agricultural Statistics Service reports these counties have 3,515 farms, 270,003 acres of land in farms. The annual market value of agricultural products sold is $548,540,000.

The area produces more tulip, daffodil and iris bulbs than any other region in the nation. Skagit County alone produces 85 percent of the nation’s table beet and spinach seed, along with 50 percent of the world’s supply of cabbage seed. Local growers produce 38 million pounds of carrots and 260 million pounds of potatoes per year as well as processed peas, red raspberries, blueberries, apples and other crops.