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USDA Investment Advances Research and Extension Capacity Across 1890 Historically Black Land-grant Universities

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today an investment of $30.8 million as part of its commitment to all 19 of America’s designated 1890 historically black Land-grant Universities. This investment, made through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) 1890 Institution Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants Program will support scientific research that addresses some of our nation’s toughest agricultural challenges.

“This spring semester, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting colleges across the country and speaking with students who will define the next generation of agriculture,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “I’ve observed first-hand how the nation’s Land-grant Universities are preparing our students for a future that directly responds to the most pressing challenges in agriculture. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure we have a Department and a good system that is ready for them.”

Over the spring semester, Deputy Secretary Torres Small visited 14 Land-grant institutions across the country as part of her college tour that included visits to 1890 Land-grant Universities (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) including Virginia State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Fort Valley State University, South Carolina State University and Southern University. She also visited 1994 Institutions (Tribal Colleges and Universities), Hispanic-serving Institutions, community colleges and state schools.

During her college tour, the Deputy Secretary heard from faculty and students about the need to continue strengthening partnerships with USDA to develop and deploy cutting-edge research and innovations that would support farmers and communities while combatting climate change and nutrition insecurity, and to build an agricultural workforce that looks like America.

NIFA's investment will directly further these goals.  The 68 projects funded today will strengthen the skills and diversity of our nation’s higher-education workforce, bolster scientific research and knowledge delivery systems, and equip 1890 Land-grant Universities with resources needed to better address emerging challenges and create new opportunities.

The investments made through this program will build 1890s' capacity for teaching, research and Extension activities including curriculum design, faculty development, student recruitment and retention, fundamental or applied research enhancement, and Extension program development. Activities supported address key problems of national, regional and community importance in sustaining all components of agriculture including farm profitability and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, breeding, biotechnology and more.

“1890 Land-grant Universities are a vital part of our nation’s fabric,” said NIFA Director Dr. Manjit Misra. “This investment will strengthen the ability of 1890 Land-grant Universities to deliver innovative solutions that address emerging agricultural challenges impacting diverse communities. Building the research and training capacity of the nation’s universities is critical as they continue to develop and guide the next generation of agricultural leaders.”

FY 2023 Awardees: Alabama A&M University (4 awards); Alcorn State University (5 awards): Central State University (2 awards); Delaware State University (3 awards); Florida A&M University (6 awards): Fort Valley State University (4 awards): Kentucky State University (4 awards); Langston University (2 awards); Lincoln University (4 awards): North Carolina A&T State University (1 award): Prairie View A&M University (4 awards); South Carolina State University (1 award); Southern University (3 awards); Tennessee State University (5 awards); Tuskegee University (2 awards); University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (4 awards); University of Maryland Eastern Shore (5 awards); Virginia State University (1 award); and West Virginia State University (8 awards).

Examples of the 68 funded projects include:

  • In Georgia, Fort Valley State University’s project, “Establishing a Transgene-Free CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Genome Editing System Targeting the Phytoene Desaturase Gene in Rhizoma Peanut Toward Future Hardiness Breeding,” will study a better way of delivering gene-editing technology to crops such as the Rhizoma peanut to detect mutations, increase seed setting, increase the crop’s performance in cold weather and decrease sterility.  ($485,312)
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s project, “Strengthening the Food Sciences Program through a Chocolate Science Education,” will revolutionize food science education by integrating chocolate science into academic curricula. They will design a three-credit course focused on chocolate science, covering everything from the chemistry of cocoa beans to the art of confectionary craftsmanship. This course will provide students with hands-on learning experiences and prepare them for exciting careers in the food industry. ($599,448)
  • South Carolina State University’s project, “Building Digital Capacity: An Integrated Approach to Building Digital Commerce Capabilities of Small Agricultural Producers in South Carolina,” will develop and implement an integrated teaching, research and Extension model to bolster the Digital Commerce capabilities of small farm-based businesses in South Carolina and enhancing their participation in the online marketplace. ($585.402)
  • In Louisiana, Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College’s project, “Jagratory Youth S.T.E.A.M. Mobile LA,” will increase student interest in "STEAM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics) in rural areas with its mobile lab that will travel the state of Louisiana using innovative, experiential learning approaches to introduce K-12 youths to STEAM programming, targeting disadvantaged areas. ($250,000)
  • Virginia State University’s project, “Nutritional Profile of Ginger Grown Under Deficit Irrigation for Promoting its Cultivation and Consumption for Preventing Obesity,” will address USDA NIFA’s Agriculture Food and Research Initiative priority area to help prevent and manage obesity, a chronic disease that affects mortality and morbidity, by studying the effect of ginger bioactive compounds on obesity. It will link farm and laboratory research to farmers, healthcare workers, and consumers through Extension programs. ($599,920)

Across NIFA’s portfolio (competitive and capacity), NIFA invested $528 million in FY 2023 in 1890 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), non-LGU HBCU, Insular LGU, the HBCU University of the District of Columbia, Hispanic-serving Institutions and 1994 LGU Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities. The total investment made to 1890 LGUs in FY 2023 was $353.3 million. 

These institutions can be found online by visiting the interactive Land-grant University map.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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