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USDA to provide $33M for agriculture projects at 19 HBCU land-grant institutions

Funding from a USDA grant for 1890 Land-Grant Institutions will support 82 projects, including one at Fort Valley State University in Georgia on shortages in sunflower oil. Shown is a sunflower in bloom at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Areas, near Poolesville, Maryland. USDA photo by Preston Keres.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday announced $33 million in funding to support research and education projects at 19 historically Black colleges and universities designated as land-grant institutions, including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

The funding through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will support 82 projects in sustainable farming practices such as reducing use of plastics, enhancing nutritional value in vegetables and addressing shortages in sunflower seed oil.

“The work these universities will take on as a result of this funding have ripple effects far beyond the walls of their laboratories and classrooms,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small said in a statement.

Torres Small said the investments will help “deliver real-life, applicable solutions to make our food system stronger, while at the same time inspiring a next generation of students and scientists who will help us meet tomorrow’s agricultural challenges.”

1890 Land-Grant Institutions are a byproduct of a Civil War-era law that gave land to dozens of universities, including the HBCUs, but the land had been forcibly taken from Indigenous tribes. In total, nearly 11 million acres were taken from more than 250 tribes, according to a project published in High Country News.

“USDA looks forward to the impact these visionary projects will have in improving the supply of affordable, safe, nutritious and accessible food and agricultural products, while fostering economic development and rural prosperity in America,” National Institute of Food and Agriculture Director Manjit K. Misra said in a statement.

Many of the projects are geared toward sustainable practices in farming. U.S. agriculture contributes to about 11.2% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the Biden administration has focused on “climate smart” farming practices.

For example, one project at North Carolina A&T State University was awarded about $250,000 to conduct farm trials of biodegradable mulches, which would be an alternative to plastic mulch.

Another land-grant university in Wilberforce, Ohio, the Central State University, was awarded about $500,000 to explore the use of a perennial flower — meaning it comes back year after year — as a way to improve honey production in order to enhance sustainability practices in agriculture.

And in Nashville, a project at Tennessee State University was awarded $100,000 to evaluate climate resiliency in legume species, which are crops such as snow peas, chickpeas and lentils, that are crucial to fixing nitrogen into the soil to improve soil health.

The projects funded at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore include studies to improve the health of pasture-raised poultry, research beneficial microbes for soil health, and develop technology to detect Listeria during harvest of leafy greens. Five projects at the campus in Princess Anne will receive a combined total of more than $2.5 million.

A full list of projects can be found here, and the 19 land-grant universities sharing in the $33 million are:

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

West Virginia State University

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report. 


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USDA to provide $33M for agriculture projects at 19 HBCU land-grant institutions