USDA Announces New Investment at NC A&T CAES

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small made her inaugural visit to N.C. A&T this month to see firsthand the ways the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is using the federal agency’s funding to advance programs, research and scholarships.

She also came to bring good news: USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest nearly $1 million in a new A&T project to help advance environmental justice in agriculture through its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI.)

“Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is working to create new career opportunities for the next generation of farmers, foresters, researchers and entrepreneurs at N.C. A&T,” Torres Small said. “This work will better position rural America to build economic prosperity, invest in agricultural research and give students the chance to succeed in the communities they love.”

The four-year project, led by Chyi Lyi (Kathleen) Liang, W.K. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, will help government agencies identify strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of public investments in underserved communities, particularly those investments involving climate change, food and nutritional security and workforce development.

“USDA makes lots of grants. The challenge is to identify what happens to the stakeholders as time goes by once the funds have been invested,” Liang said. “During the course of a project, of course, impact is being felt. But what about two years later? Or four years? Is the project still a good, impactful investment? That’s what this study plans to assess.”

The team also includes researchers from the University of Florida, N.C. Central University and the University of California – Berkeley.

While touring the University Farm, Torres Small and her team learned about such USDA-funded projects as climate-smart soils and cover cropping; production of niche crops, such as ginger; and toured the University Farm Pavilion and the Farm, to watch the dairy’s Automated Milking System at work.

She also took a campus tour of CAES buildings with ongoing USDA-funded projects and renovations, and met with the college’s undergraduate USDA Scholars and 1890s Scholars in a question and answer session in Webb Hall.

The A&T stop is part of the deputy secretary’s multi-college, national tour.

“What excited me the most about coming here today, and seeing all of these different programs, is that the Farm Pavilion is ‘the place to be’ on campus. It’s exciting for me to hear that agriculture is the place to be,” Torres Small said. “Coming from USDA, I know that the work we do touches people every day, but to see how the future of ag looks here, with excited students who are taking on climate change through agricultural practices; making sure there’s a secure food supply chain; and developing more and better markets through research developed right here at A&T, and then sharing those practices with the community, is very exciting.”

The four-year AFRI grant begins in July of 2024.

“The future of agriculture is the future of all of us,” Torres Small said. “It’s making sure everyone has healthy food, but it’s also about making sure that we make sure agriculture is thriving in the places we’re from – the urban areas as well as the rural communities. When we invest in agriculture, we’re investing in rural communities, but we’re also investing in all of us. “

USDA Deputy Sec. Xochitl Torres Small takes a photo with A&T’s undergraduate USDA 1890s Scholars during her tour of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences earlier this month. Image courtesy NC A&T CAES