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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a $262.5 million investment in higher education institutions to grow agricultural professionals nationwide.

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According to the press release, the $262.5 million investment will provide training and support for more than 20,000 future food and agricultural leaders through 33 project partners.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” (NextGen) will enable eligible institutions to build and sustain the next generation of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences workforce.

This includes strengthening USDA’s workforce through enhanced educational support, experiential learning, and exposure to early career opportunities.

Awarded projects include North Carolina A&T State University in partnership with Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Virginia State University, Florida A&M University, Fort Valley State University, University of Maryland at Eastern Shore, and North Carolina State University.

Together, they will implement the “System Approach to Promote Learning and Innovation for the Next Generations (SAPLINGS)” of Professionals and Leaders in Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences program to:

  • Train 6,134 grade 5-12 students, 326 grade 5-12 educators, and 5,871 college students
  • Reach 980 families
  • Engage more than 30 partners
  • Enhance student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates at 1890 land grant universities

The 1890 land-grant system includes Alabama A&M, Delaware State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, West Virginia State University, and other historically Black colleges and universities.

To track the impacts of the NextGen program, NIFA is partnering with the Intercultural Development Research Association, an independent, non-profit organization that strengthens public education by leading policy analyses and advocacy, research, evaluation, and frameworks for community engagement.

In addition, USDA announced the release of two public dashboards allowing users the ability to access data about agricultural research funding investments and the status of grant applications.

Earlier in the year, the USDA Equity Commission released recommendations to remove barriers to inclusion and access at USDA, including strengthening research, extension, and teaching in the food and agricultural sciences at all minority-serving institutions.

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