Congress enacted the Second Morrill Act, creating a group of African-American land-grant universities, in the year 1890. Today – 125 years later – USDA maintains a close, supportive and cooperative relation with these 19 schools located in 18 states that are commonly known as “1890 Universities.”
This morning in a ceremony in his office, Secretary Vilsack signed an agreement extending USDA’s commitment to the 1890 Universities for another five years. Also signing the agreement was Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), acting on behalf of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Council of 1890 Universities. Secretary Vilsack spoke of the importance of extending the partnership between these universities and USDA, saying it was “more important than ever to train the next generation of policy makers, researchers and educators in the food and agricultural sciences.”
The 1890 legislation gave states funds to establish state universities for persons of color if race was an admissions factor at the existing state university. Over the years, these institutions have a track record of “serving the underserved” and “reaching the unreached.” Today, 1890 Universities are proud to remain the custodians of access to and opportunity for higher education in underserved communities.
With today’s signing ceremony, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will continue to support internships, training, technical assistance, faculty exchange opportunities, increased mentoring and other collaborative environmental and public health activities.
One example of this frequent collaboration can be seen this graduation season. Secretary Vilsack gave the commencement address at Florida A&M University earlier this month. Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, also underscored the importance of 1890 Universities in a speech to UMES students celebrating National 1890 Day.
“The 1890 institutions are places of cutting-edge research and technology, empowering many students to become the leaders we need to feed the growing world population,” Woteki said. “With the agricultural challenges looming over us all, it is crucial that we continue to revolutionize agriculture with groundbreaking ideas and build sustainable agricultural systems.
“…The best investment we can make, then, is in the most valuable commodity we can cultivate – each of you – by supporting the next generation of food, ag and natural resource scientists and those dedicated to training them.” The complete text of Dr. Woteki’s speech can be found on the REE website.