U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has not made any decision yet on disposal of the land from the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center outside Watkinsville and isn’t likely to do so until after the first of the year, a spokesperson in the department told me on Monday.
The Campell Center is one of nine facilities around the country the Agricultural Research Service is closing completely, Sandy Miller Hayes, director of information for the ARS in Beltsville, Md., told me in phone conversation on Monday. Another will be closed in part.
The focus at present is on transfer of employees of the Campbell Center who are not able to or don’t want to retire, she said.
The Department of Agriculture can transfer the land from the Campbell Center to the University of Georgia.
Dean J. Scott Angle of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environment Sciences told me in a telephone conversation yesterday that he has requested that the USDA make that transfer.
“I have sent the Secretary of Agriculture a letter asking him to transfer the land to the University of Georgia,” he said. Angle said he didn’t expect to get an answer until sometime in January or even later.
“We are relatively certain the transfer will take place,” he added.
In the meantime, Angle said, he is seeking a permit that would grant the university access to the land to facilitate the transfer.
Angle said the cattle herd, which is jointly owned by the university and the Campbell Center, is being cared for, and facility upkeep continues to be the responsibility of ARS.
|On Hog Mountain Road|
Crews from the Campbell Center repaired a damaged fence on the property along Hog Mountain Road this past week.
Last month both Houses of Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an agriculture appropriations bill for the current fiscal year that set in motion the closing of the Campbell Center.
The bill did not contain funding for the Campbell Center, but it did include a “conveyance” clause allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to transfer the land that makes up the Campbell Center to land grant institutions such as the University of Georgia.
The provision had been fashioned by a subcommittee of the House of Representatives chaired by Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican from Savannah.
The Campbell Center, started on Jan. 1, 1937, conducts research and develops procedures to deal with soil erosion. It also has a research program on organic methods of farming.
The Center’s 1,107 acres are divided into four tracts.
Just fewer than 610 of those acres are on both sides of Hog Mountain Road east of Butler’s Crossing and north of Watkinsville.
That acreage abuts the University of Georgia’s Horticulture Farm on Hog Mountain Road.
Another 245 of those acres are across Hog Mountain Road from the Civic Center. The final 252 of the acres are on Colham Ferry Road south of Coventry Road in the part of the county.
Earlier this year, the Center had nearly 30 employees.
The University of Georgia is phasing out its Plant Sciences Farm on Hog Mountain Road in the far west of the county and could transfer some of that research to the Campbell Center site.