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USDA Strengthens Partnership with 1890s Universities

Posted by Damon Thompson, Communications Director, USDA Office of Research, Education, and Economics in Initiatives
Feb 21, 2017
Marcus Brownrigg, Pathways Officer, Phyllis Holmes, Acting Director, 1890’s National Program, Dr. Moses Kairo, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Dr. Gregory Parham, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Beattra Wilson, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Carolyn Parker, Director, Office of Advocacy and Outreach and Chief Tom Tidwell, U. S. Forest Service observe Dr. Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Chair of 1890 Executive Committee and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sign a memorandum of understanding
The USDA and the Council of 1890 Universities today renewed their memorandum of understanding that reaffirms and sustains the partnership between USDA and the historically black colleges created under the Second Morrill Act of 1890 for an additional five years. Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Chair of the Council of 1890 Universities of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, signed the agreement with Secretary Vilsack. This year celebrates 125 years of the signing of the second Morrill Act, which led to the creation of 19 historically black land-grant colleges and universities. (USDA Photo by Bob Nichols)

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.

Category/Topic: Initiatives

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May 11, 2015

If we're supposed to equal these days I don't see how singling out a community that has come so far in history helps! It's seen as unfair in today's diverse United States. How is it right that my taxes that I worked hard for while paying for college are paying for a different race to go to school? I could see it 100 years ago but today?!

Jasmine Hayes
May 13, 2015

As a transfer student at Prairie View A&M, I have notice an issue in the College
of Agricultural and Human Sciences having low enrollment. This issue goes in hand with
the USDA having many vacant positions. There are several activities throughout the
school year that the Agriculture department is responsible for coordinating. Due to the
lack of information provided to the university’s student body and others, these events
are hardly successful because the majority of the university are unaware of these

The university should be highly informed and aware that the purpose of this
land grant institution is here to manage the land and be productive. The university as a
community and family should be exceeding hand and hand, making sure to not leave
agriculture at the low end. Not necessarily, should everyone praise agriculture more, but
we do need a balance in the world. All majors should be incorporated with one another
to insure that the world gets a better understanding of agriculture and how its history
helps universities that are funded with grants like the 1890 land grant.

With these standards applied, it will educate not only students attending these universities, but people around the world who lack the knowledge of what an 1890 university is all about.
I like to say more people should study agricultural sciences because it will produce
more food production globally and possibly better the economy of America, being that
the USDA is 20% of US workforce. For recruitment purposes, it is important to inform
young people about Agricultural sciences, with the latest technology, that there are
other occupations such as scientists and engineers other than farm production being an
occupation. There is a wide umbrella that will bring many opportunities to students who
study Agricultural sciences and human sciences. Shouldn’t people be informed with
how to take care of their bodies and what nutritional foods their bodies require more
today? After all without the people standing in good health and knowledge we will fail
altogether eventually. More people should know that 1890 universities are in need of
stronger successful progression in all college departments together.

Jasmine Hayes
Agriculture Animal Sciences

JaCorey Miller
May 13, 2015

Recently Prairie View A&M University celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the 1890 Land Grant System. I honestly didn’t realize how important it is not just to the college of agriculture but to the entire body of Prairie View A&M University. As students we need to know the history, and what is behind the Land Grant Systems. On the week of the celebration, I asked many students how they felt about the anniversary, the response I got from majority of them was stunning. The reason behind that is because some of the students that are freshman’s, and sophomore’s coming in to college new to things, honestly do not have no idea of what they are participating in.

We want students to know every move that they make on Prairie A&M University is history in the making. As a network of historically black colleges and universities dedicated to providing educational opportunity for all through innovative scientific research and community-minded extension programs, the 1890 Land-Grant universities are providing relevant and distinctive teaching programs for a broad spectrum of students, but particularly for first generation college students and those who have limited opportunities. Also enhancing capacity, marketability, profitability, sustainability and diversity in agricultural enterprises for small and limited resource operations.

Students that are attending, and have a future in attending Prairie View A&M University need to know the importance of the 1890 Land Grant System. Many students have no idea that the Land Grant System is the reason why many Universities are funded and able to run a productive campus. Without the 1890 Land Grant Act Prairie View A&M University would not exist, meaning that it is a major contribution not just to the college of Agriculture, but to the entire University.

JaCorey Miller
Agriculture Animal Sciences

Miranda Clark
May 13, 2015

Recently, Prairie View A&M celebrated its 125th anniversary as an 1890 Land Grant institution. The College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) planned a week full of adventure and fun events for the student body to participate and enjoy. When students were asked, “Do you know what this week is?” Many responded, “No, it’s another week”. Numerous students assumed it was “Agriculture week”. As I observed each student response and witnessed their disinterest in the events that took place around the campus, I started to realize how the majority of Prairie View students lack the knowledge and history of their University.

When I first started my research on this topic, I strongly agreed that it was the students fault they lacked knowledge about Agriculture related events, and history, but to broader exposure to the 2nd Morrill Act, I now see that it’s completely in the hands of University officials. Events such as homecoming, Hump Day, and celebrity guest speakers are proudly broadcasted around the university campus, so why is it that the school’s history must suffer? Is it because no one cares? I feel that if we have student leaders, such as “Student Ambassadors”, who can help guide, and lead the student body in the right direction, our students would be more willing to learn the importance of the 2nd Morrill Act and how it helped fund all 1890 Land Grant Universities. From personal experience, I’ve witnessed students are more easily persuaded by other students. Students find it easier, and seem more comfortable communicating with one another. If we had leaders willing to step up to the plate and make a change, 1890 Universities around the world would see a lot of improvement in student enrollment as well as school spirit. This issue is extremely important to me and should be addressed in order for us to work as one to make a positive and effective change.

If we continue to hide major issues going on within our universities then we’ll never be able to make a difference in the next generation’s lives. As leaders we need to insure that all universities funded under the 2nd Morrill Act, instill knowledge into their students about their universities history and all the trials and tribulations they had to go through in order to embrace the name of being an 1890 Land Grant University.

Miranda Clark
Agriculture Animal Sciences