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US (Il): $4.5 million bipartisan plan could bring a new research greenhouse to Peoria's ag lab

Peoria's ag lab soon could have a new, climate-controlled greenhouse for research into four key crops – and there's a bipartisan effort to fund its construction.

Both U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos and Darin LaHood are requesting that $4.5 million be set aside to build it at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. "The work they do there has a national and a global impact. It also has a local economic impact," said Chris Setti, the CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, which led the effort to bring the funding request to Bustos and LaHood.

The greenhouse would help drive research into ways to "improve the climate resilience and sustainability of food and energy production, foster new economic opportunities for rural communities and biomanufacturing industries, and enhance the safety and security of the food supply," according to materials the EDC submitted to Bustos, LaHood and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Bustos called it an opportunity "for a whole new way to look at how ag can be a solution to the climate crisis." LaHood noted that with agriculture the state's top industry, the research there would help "create new opportunities in the private sector" while also likely bringing more scientists to work at the facility.

The lab regularly does work that involves private funding as well as public research. If the greenhouse receives funding, projects there would focus, at least at first, on research into wheat and barley, sorghum, and industrial hemp.

Jan Suszkiw, a spokesperson for the ag lab, deferred comment on the proposal to congressional leaders. Traditionally, officials at the ag lab don't comment on funding-related issues or requests.

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