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Harvest Public Media reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues through a collaborative network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest and Plains.

19 HBCUS Are Getting A Boost In Research Funding From The USDA

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Ryan LaCroix / KOSU
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Langston University's campus in Langston, Okla.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping beef up research at 19 historically Black colleges and universities, and the money could have a broader impact for minority communities.

The USDA and Black farmers have had a rocky relationship over the years, but the Biden administration says it's working on that. It's investing nearly $22 million in historically Black land grant institutions to support research.

Langston University in north-central Oklahoma got funding for four projects.

Dr. Wesley Whittaker, the dean of Langston's School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, said funding like this helps the university engage more deeply with Black farmers.

"We take the research results, and we disseminate it among producers, so that their production operation can be more viable, can be more profitable," said Whittaker.

Institutions like Langston have fewer resources than other land-grant universities, but Whittaker said this funding makes them more competitive.

"We can engage in a lot more research and also better quality research," said Whittaker. "Because of these funds also, we can compete for better quality scientists to engage in these research activities."

In a statement, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the USDA is working to improve equity. He said the funding will build on land-grant institutions' capacity to come up with solutions for agricultural challenges.

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