USDA Announces Three New Centers of Excellence with a Consortium of 1890 Colleges and Universities

Taylor Hillman Education

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is making a $1 million initial investment to support three Centers of Excellence with the Council of 1890 Colleges, building and strengthening USDA’s historic partnership with 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities.

Vilsack made the announcement during remarks at the Convocation commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the Second Morrill Act becoming law, creating the 1890 Land-Grant Universities.

“When Congress passed the act in 1890 creating additional Land-Grant Universities, they were creating access to economic mobility through educational opportunity for all. These schools have been instrumental in growing our nation into a multicultural economic power,” said Vilsack. “The three new Centers of Excellence will build on this legacy of cooperation and success to help sustain our nation for the next 125 years and beyond.”

These three new centers will serve as a consortium to increase coordination and collaboration between USDA and the 1890s schools. Each center will focus on a specific identified need:

  • Creating an integrated center to benefit Small Farms, Ranches and Forest Landowners in high poverty areas;
  • Establishing a virtual center to support the science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics (STEAM) pipeline of students and address the growing need for talented career candidates to meet future workforce needs; and
  • Satisfying the nation’s need in the areas of international engagement and global food security to increase international cooperation, trade and development.

Secretary Vilsack said USDA would provide additional related funding through existing programs and agreements, and that the initial funding will help the 1890s schools improve their access to USDA programs and attract additional outside investment.

Over the past six years, USDA has partnered with 1890s schools in a number of ways to make a positive impact in the lives of underserved farmers, youth and communities. Some recent actions include:

  • Providing more than $132 million in funding to 1890s schools through 350 different awards across the entire department last year;
  • Continuing the 1890’s Scholars program, currently assisting 55 Scholars in agencies throughout USDA with scholarships worth approximately $35,000 each, and permanently employing more than 600 Land-Grant University graduates through the program.