The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a significant investment of over $33 million to support capacity-building efforts at 1890 Land-grant Universities. Administered through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), this funding will bolster 82 research, Extension, and education projects across the nation’s 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities designated as 1890 Land-grant Universities.
The primary goal of NIFA’s 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program is to enhance the capacity of these universities for teaching, research, and Extension activities. The eligible institutions will receive funding for a wide range of initiatives, including curriculum design, materials development, faculty training, student recruitment and retention programs, and support for Extension programs. Additionally, research investments will enhance the quality and diversity of the higher-education workforce, strengthen research and knowledge delivery systems, and equip 1890 Land-grant Universities with resources to effectively address emerging challenges and create new opportunities.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small emphasized the transformative impact of this investment, extending beyond the confines of laboratories and classrooms. These funded projects are expected to provide practical solutions that strengthen the nation’s food system while inspiring a new generation of students and scientists who will play a crucial role in addressing future agricultural challenges.
Furthermore, the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program welcomed 100 scholars earlier this month. This initiative offers selected students pursuing degrees in agriculture, food science, natural resource science, or related disciplines at one of the 19 designated 1890 Land-grant Universities and Tuskegee University full tuition, employment, benefits, fees, books, and room and board for up to four years. These scholars will be placed at various USDA agencies and offices, encouraging career pathways in agriculture, nutrition, food development, and related fields.
Dr. Manjit K. Misra, Director of NIFA, highlighted the crucial role that 1890 Land-grant Universities play in advancing fundamental sciences and translational research for agriculture. The funding will significantly boost their capacity to continue their invaluable work in providing affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible food and agricultural products while contributing to economic development and rural prosperity in America.
The 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program will benefit all 19 eligible universities, including Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University, Central State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Langston University, Lincoln University of Missouri, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, South Carolina State University, Southern University and A&M College, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Virginia State University, and West Virginia State University.
Several exemplary projects funded under this program were highlighted:
- Virginia State University will receive funding for two projects. The first aims to increase the production of edamame and food-grade soy in the South Atlantic states. The second project will explore sustainable, high-value forage options to help regional farmers supply feed to the growing number of goat and sheep farms in the area, thereby increasing profits from emerging food preferences.
- Fort Valley State University in Georgia will benefit from three awards. These projects include research and development of new blends of vegetable cooking oils, reproductive technologies for sheep and goats, and a collaborative research and education program with agricultural students and faculty in Ghana.
- North Carolina A&T State University will be involved in several projects, including conducting on-farm trials of biodegradable mulches as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic mulch in commercial vegetable production. Another project will focus on improving food allergy educational training for food and agriculture students entering the workforce.
The funding provided through this program builds on the USDA’s previous historic investment of $262.5 million to support institutions of higher education in fostering the next generation of diverse agricultural professionals across the nation. The recent announcement will provide training and support to more than 20,000 future food and agriculture leaders, furthering the USDA’s commitment to improve equity and access and to build a workforce more representative of America.
In June, the USDA introduced two public dashboards to enhance transparency and engagement in NIFA funding opportunities, including the capacity-building awards mentioned above. These dashboards offer grantees and the public unprecedented access to high-level data about agricultural research funding investments, and they allow applicants to track the status of their grant applications. The development of these dashboards exemplifies the USDA’s dedication to increasing data transparency and accessibility and supports the principles outlined in the Year of Open Science initiative.
Image provided by the USDA