President Donald Trump is expected to sign a $867 billion agricultural appropriations and regulation legislative package that will grant more than $100 million to historically black land grant institutions nationwide.
Elected officials in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed the farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, clearing the way for the nation’s 19 HBCUs with agricultural training and research missions to receive historic funding for student scholarships, research and development and support for auxiliary campus enterprises.
The bill mandates federal reporting on states’ compliance with matching requirements for funding granted to HBCUs through land grant programs within the Department of Agriculture. In 2017, nine of the 19 land-grant black colleges were forced to file waivers to keep federal funding after states did not match the appropriations for academic and cooperative extension programming.
The Farm Bill also clears the following HBCU-exclusive funding over the next five years:
$95 million to land-grant HBCUs for student scholarships and grants
$50 million to support three HBCU Centers of Excellence in agricultural workforce development, nutrition and food security, economic development and emerging technologies.
$15 million for HBCU cooperative extension and research
The bill also legalizes hemp growth and manufacturing, clearing the way for existing programs at schools like Tennessee State University and Southern University to expand research and development programs for medicinal and textile production.
“As one of the nation’s oldest HBCUs and land grant institutions, we take seriously our mission to educate and to contribute to society at every level. The Farm Bill will be beneficial as we enhance our research and innovation contributions to our state, nation and beyond,” said Southern University System President Ray Belton.
It will also be the first version of a federal farm bill to fully include Central State University as a designated land-grant institution. It received its federal status in 2014, the same year that the last version of the Farm Bill was passed.
“Having the necessary funding through this amendment will be really beneficial not only to Central State but to the entire state of Ohio,” Central State President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond told the Dayton Daily News in June.
Other officials throughout the HBCU community applauded the historic bill for significant investments in black colleges’ support of minority farming and agribusiness development.
“We are very pleased that many of the legislative priorities that the 1890 Council of Presidents identified early on are included in the proposed Farm Bill,” said Kent Smith, President of Langston University and Chair of the Council of 1890 Presidents. “Several members, including Rep. Alma Adams, Senator Sherrod Brown, Rep. David Scott, Chairman Conaway and Chairman Roberts; Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson and their incredible staffs have been wonderful to work with throughout the process. We look to the President signing the bill which will help our students and schools immensely.”
“The Farm Bill Conference Committee Report contains multiple wins for our 1890 institutions including the elimination of the Carry-Over Provision; increased transparency regarding the state-matching requirement; $50 million for three Centers of Excellence at three 1890 universities; and the authorization of $80 million in scholarship funds for HBCU students,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, Thurgood Marshall College Fund president and CEO. “As a former president of one of our 1890 universities, I have first-hand knowledge of the tremendous impact the new Farm Bill will have directly on our campuses and in the communities they serve while fulfilling the land-grant mission. We at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund would like to thank all of the HBCU community’s legislative advocates and Farm Bill Conferees for listening to our priorities throughout this process and including all of these critical measures in the report.”
“Kentucky State University serves an important role in agricultural research and extension across the state of Kentucky and beyond,” said KSU President M. Christopher Brown II. “Our aquaculture program ranks among the top five nationally, and our work with small and under-resourced farms across the state will be expanded under this new legislation. The legalization of hemp for agricultural research and production aligns to our farm innovation and revitalization efforts with farmers in the Bluegrass and others struggling with the decimation of the tobacco crop.”
“Personally, I earned all three of my academic degrees at land-grant universities. My professional career has prioritized employment within land-grant universities. And I have served as the president or institutional executive officer of three 1890 land-grant universities. Without question, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill signals the nation’s commitment to opportunities for education and training for citizens, equitable access to higher quality of life for communities, and economic development in metropolitan and rural areas throughout our country.”