USDA Deputy Secretary Visits VSU As The First Stop On College Tour

The visit underscored the USDA’s commitment to supporting cutting-edge research and providing career opportunities for VSU agriculture majors.

U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small visited Virginia State University last week to highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ongoing support for agricultural research and education at VSU and meet with students to discuss potential career opportunities available for the next generation of farmers, foresters, conservationists, and entrepreneurs.

The visit kicked off Deputy Secretary Torres Small’s cross-country College Tour, which will include stops at Land-grant Universities, 1980s Land-grant Colleges and Universities, 1994 Institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, community colleges, and state schools over the course of the next several weeks. At each stop, she will underscore how colleges and universities like VSU are working with the Biden-Harris Administration to advance rural prosperity, climate-smart practices, competition, and sustainability. Deputy Secretary Torres Small will also highlight how USDA is making a difference on college campuses, from new funding for education and training to cutting-edge research to economic development to build a food and agriculture food system.

The Deputy’s visit included stops at two sites where students, faculty and University partners conduct cutting-edge studies and demonstrations to support innovation in agriculture: the MT Carter Annex – Research and Extension Collaboration Building and the Randolph Farm agricultural learning center. VSU and USDA have maintained a continuous partnership to support the 1890 land grant mission. Multiple USDA investments in VSU extension, research, and academics have allowed VSU’s College of Agriculture to provide opportunities to the various communities served by the University.

These investments include:

  • 1890 Facilities Grant Program: In FY2023, VSU received more than $1 million for improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment.
  • USDA’s Next Gen Initiative with 1890 Land-Grant Universities: VSU and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are collaborating to utilize the Emerging USDA Leaders Model Program (EULM) to introduce middle and high school students to the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences sector prior to college through agricultural-focused hackathons, climate-smart agricultural technologies, and other STEM-based experiences. Eight land-grant universities received $18.1 million in 2023 funding provided through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Small Farm Outreach Program: In 2023, VSU received nearly $3.25 million to assist in the development of a National Urban Agricultural Program for the USDA Farm Service Agency. The program will help urban growers develop the knowledge and skills to successfully access and use FSA and other USDA programs, tools, and services.

"Land-grant Institutions are catalysts of cutting-edge science, research, and innovation, serve as drivers of economic development in rural communities, and are cultivating the next generation of leaders in food and agriculture," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. "That’s why I’m excited to launch USDA’s College Tour and highlight how the Biden-Harris Administration is partnering with Land-grant institutions like Virginia State University to build rural prosperity, create a more resilient food system, inspire a next generation of students and scientists who will help us meet tomorrow’s agricultural challenges, and so much more."

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provided more than $5 billion in support to Land-grant University campuses since fiscal year 2021, offering student-centered scholarships to recruit, mentor, and train undergraduate students for jobs in food and agricultural sciences and related fields. Six 1890 Scholars are currently working at Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in Virginia. Eight USDA Pathways interns are also on the job in FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service while they complete their education.

Rural Development (RD) is one of several agencies under the USDA umbrella that offer career opportunities to build communities on and off the farm. Our investments in rural America include two grant programs that can make farms and businesses more productive and sustainable (Value-Added Producer Grants and the Rural Energy for America Program). Virginia State University recently received a $315,514 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to support interactive learning at the college and local high schools.

"Our programs help position rural America to compete in a global economy and open opportunities for the workforce of tomorrow," said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. "We're pleased to have a former 1890 Scholar on the Virginia team and to finance projects that connect students to a world of information and resources through broadband internet service. Several rural colleges have also received funding through the community facilities program to renovate dorms and administration buildings."