The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture plans to invest nearly $1 million in a new project at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to help advance environmental justice in agriculture through the school’s Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI.)
USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small recently visited N.C. A&T to see how its College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is presently using federal agency funds to advance programs, research, and scholarships.
“Under Secretary Tom 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,” said Torres Small. “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.”
AFRI grant funding begins in July 2024 for the four-year project, led by Dr. Chyi Lyi “Kathleen” Liang, W.K. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture.
“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 project is expected to 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. The team includes researchers from the University of Florida, North Carolina Central University, and the University of California Berkeley.
Torres Small’s N.C. A&T stop is part of her multi-college national tour.
“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,” Torres Small said.
“The future of agriculture is the future of all of us,” continued the deputy secretary. “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.”