From the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., testified yesterday before the House Committee on Agriculture chaired by Rep. K. Michael Conaway (TX-11).
Mangum was one of six 1890 land-grant university (LGU) presidents selected to testify before the Committee. The five other participating universities were Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University, Fort Valley State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Tuskegee University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
There are 19, 1890 land-grant universities (LGUs) in the U.S. The Second Morrill Act, which was passed 125 years ago by Congress on August 30, 1890, created a network of historically Black colleges and universities dedicated to providing educational opportunities for all, through innovative scientific research and community-minded extension programs.
The landmark legislation established the funding mechanism and framework for opening access to education for African Americans. The University’s land-grant status and the federal funding that followed have created ladders of opportunity for underserved and limited resource communities and farmers in North Florida, and especially FAMU students seeking careers in agricultural industry and research.
The hearing coincided with a week-long series of events centered on the critical role these universities play in promoting research, outreach, teaching, and economic development in this country. Participants include representatives from Fortune 500 companies, agri-businesses, legislators, representatives from the 1890-universities, and agency heads involved in promoting research and development.
Mangum was introduced in the Committee meeting by Rep. Gwen Graham (FL-2), who praised FAMU for its history of excellence and for “leading the way in innovative research.”
Mangum begin her remarks by thanking Congress for providing FAMU, and the other 18 LGUs, with the funding that has enabled the University to fulfill its land-grant mission and become a major research university that holds nine agricultural patents and is undertaking groundbreaking research and outreach throughout Florida, the nation, and the world. She spoke about the major contributions that the University is making toward the advancement of knowledge and scientific discoveries, including the biological control of the Varroa mite and small hive beetle – two major pests of honey bees and the related $15 billion industry; mitigation and control of the red palm weevil in the Caribbean; and mitigation and control of invasive pests.
“The research and extension funding we receive is a vital part of our success. The programs funded by these grants also provide significant economic benefits for local communities throughout Florida. The impact of our research has contributed significantly to all sectors of the Florida economy,” said Mangum. “The strength of Florida’s agriculture is due, in part, to the strength of the state’s two land-grant institutions – Florida A&M University and the University of Florida.”
Mangum also told the Committee about work that is being undertaken by the FAMU Cooperative Extension Program, which is a unit of the Florida Cooperative Extension Program and the outreach arm of the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS). The program has achieved major milestones in providing research-based information and direct technical assistance to improve the quality of life for underserved and limited resource consumers, and farmers in Florida. These programs have reached more than one million children in Florida and the six surrounding states.
Mangum explained that FAMU’s research capacity would be greatly enhanced by the pending transfer of 3,800 acres of land in Brooksville, Fla. to the University by the USDA Agricultural Research Service. This transfer will be one of the single largest to a historically Black college or university in history.
“The transfer will enable FAMU to develop educational training and developmental programs for new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and to teach them the latest biotechnological innovations and other key initiatives,” said Mangum.
Mangum told the Committee, “With your continued and enhanced support, we will continue to use these resources to expand our teaching, research, and extension programs to serve the increasing needs of our state and nation. We have adopted a University-wide commitment to advancing agricultural innovations drawing on the strengths of our Colleges of Agriculture and Food Sciences and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Schools of Business and Industry and the Environment, and the Institutes of Public Health and Sustainability.”
She added, “To realize our vision, FAMU will leverage its reach across the state of Florida, including extension programming at satellite locations and research and development at the Brooksville property.
FAMU is well positioned to help Florida and the nation meet the agricultural demands of the 21st century and beyond.”
Since Brooksville is located in a subtropical region, acquisition of this property will enable FAMU to venture into new research related to subtropical fruits and animals, and to conduct research of significance to Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Acquisition of the property will also enable the University to expand its organic farming research efforts.
President Mangum fielded questions from several Committee members. Responding to Rep. Ted Yoho’s (FL-3) question on what obstacles colleges are facing in getting students involved in agriculture, Mangum explained the important role funding plays in acquiring the tools, technology, and facilities needed to attract young people to the many career opportunities in agriculture.
“One of the biggest obstacles is the need for resources to show students the value of agriculture and food safety and food security,” Mangum said.
Mangum also responded to an inquiry from Graham on whether FAMU had plans for using the land in Brooksville to promote much-needed career opportunities for veterans through agriculture. President Mangum announced that FAMU was developing several partnerships with local organizations to provide training to veterans interested in farming, including helping to establish small farms for veterans as a way to transition back to society.
Rep. David Scott (GA-13), a FAMU alum and Committee member, played a key role in arranging the historic appearance by the 1890-LGU presidents before the Committee. Mangum acknowledged Scott in her remarks for his support of FAMU and other 1890 universities.
Scott encouraged participating universities to continue the vision of agricultural innovator George Washington Carver and the members of Congress, who were instrumental in the passage of the Second Morrill Act. He commended the universities for “bettering the condition of people” and for ensuring the “education of all American people.”
“Agriculture is our food. It is our clothing. It is our energy. It’s everything,” Scott said. “Agriculture is the single most important industry in the world. The 1890’s-universities play a very critical role in addressing national security.”
During the meeting, Scott proposed that land-grant funding also be designated to support scholarships and debt forgiveness programs at the 1890’s institutions to ensure that African Americans and young Americans have an opportunity to pursue careers in agriculture-related and farming industries.