WASHINGTON — Sunday marked the 130th anniversary of the authorizing legislation establishing the 1890 Land-Grant Universities (LGUs). Almost 30 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act of 1862, the Second Morrill Act, creating our nation’s historically black land-grant colleges, was successfully shepherded through Congress by Senator Justin Smith Morrill and signed into law on Aug. 30, 1890. This thriving network of 19 universities has a legacy of educating first-generation and economically disadvantaged college students, and enhancing the resilience of limited-resourced farmers, families, individuals, and underserved communities.
“America’s 1890 Land-Grant Universities are home to some of the best and the brightest our nation has to offer,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The thousands of scientists, researches, and educators at these institutions are undertaking user-inspired, cutting-edge science that is transforming lives across our nation and around the world. The students at these institutions are a critical part of the future of American agriculture and with them the future is bright.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports a variety of initiatives and programs supporting 1890 institutions across the nation:
- The 1890 Scholarships Program provides scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training of undergraduate students. In FY 2020, each of the 1890 LGUs received $752,632 from NIFA, totaling more than $14 million to enhance student opportunities.
- The 1890 Agricultural Extension Program assists diverse audiences, particularly those who have limited social and economic resources, to improve their access to positive opportunities through outreach education. The funds support small and medium-size family farms and new producers in owning and operating viable businesses, youth and others. In FY 2020, these NIFA grants in the amount of $54,720,000 supported all the 1890 LGU’s.
- The 1890 Facilities Grant Program provides for the acquisition and improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment, including libraries, so that the 1890 LGUs may participate fully in developing human capital in the food, agricultural, and human sciences.
- The 1890 Institution Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants Program supports research, teaching, and extension by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-institutional importance in sustaining all components of agriculture and rural development. NIFA supported this program in FY 2020 with $21,853, 028.
- The Evans-Allen Research Program supports agricultural research activities at 1890 LGUs. In FY 2020, NIFA awarded $62,910,320.
- The 1890 National Scholars Program seeks to increase the number of minorities studying agriculture, food, natural sciences, and related disciplines by providing full tuition and employee benefits for up to 4 years to selected students. Selected students will then be eligible for noncompetitive conversion to a permanent appointment with USDA upon successful completion of their degree.
- The Booker T. Washington Fellowship Program, managed by the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), aimed at connecting faculty and staff at 1890 institutions to resources and research available to them at USDA.
- The USDA-1890 Task Force also managed by OPPE – body composed of equal part USDA employees and 1890 institution officials – regularly meets and converses to seek mutually beneficial cooperation.
- The Centers for Excellence Program provides support for enhanced international training and development and to increase diversity in the science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics pipeline.
In 2015, on the 125th Anniversary of the Second Morrill Act, USDA-NIFA established the 1890 Centers of Excellence Program. This program provides support for the three Centers of Excellence to increase profitability and rural prosperity in underserved farming communities. In fiscal year 2020, NIFA invested $4.8 million in three LGUs, each receiving a $1.6 million grant: University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Tuskegee University, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
After 130 years of experience and diversity in agricultural research, education, and extension, 1890 LGUs are poised to develop leadership and human capital for our nation’s preeminence in the 21st century.
The universities that make up the 1890 Land-Grant University System are: Alabama A&M, Alcorn State University, Central State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Langston University, Lincoln University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, South Carolina State University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Virginia State University and West Virginia State University.
Some recent examples of impactful 1890 LGU projects:
- After Jacksonville, Alabama was hit by an EF3 tornado that did extensive damage and uprooted scores of trees, Alabama Extension’s Urban Green program provided educational resources on proper planting and tree selection, reaching 10,116 individuals across the state.
- University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Agricultural Research Station’s 4-H “Healthy Habits” healthy foods and exercise program instilled healthy habits in 900 local youths.
- Researchers at Tennessee State University developed molecular fingerprint and biosensor methods for detecting Salmonella and other foodborne pathogens that are showing promising results as efficient tools for food safety surveillance. The resulting rapid and accurate detection technology, for use by regulatory agencies, meat and poultry producers and processors helped identify potential food safety problems in facilities and products, reduce testing time from days to hours, and cut testing cost by 50 percent.
- To keep young people interested in critical STEM education, North Carolina A&T Cooperative Extension Program’s Computer Science (CS) Pathways connected 1,804 youths to exciting Computer Science-focused learning experiences.
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