USDA Tags SDSU Extension-Led Consortium to Develop a Model to Fight Hunger in Rural Food Deserts

USDA Tags SDSU Extension-Led Consortium to Develop a Model to Fight Hunger in Rural Food Deserts

[Music] -I could go anywhere in the countryside
to make this announcement, because we wanted people to know about the
innovative things that we’re doing in our research endeavors, but when I looked
across the different awards there was none that was more exciting to me than
this award that’s coming to South Dakota State University. I will leave it to our wonderful project director to describe it in some detail, but I reflected when I
read this grant proposal that in the years when I was a college professor,
also seeking research dollars from USDA… I’m not sure it would have gotten funded.
We’ve come a long way in understanding the importance of healthy food access,
locally grown regional food systems, and their importance in American agriculture
as job creators… as a strategy to make rural communities more vibrant, more exciting as a strategy to attract young people back to our working lands. There’s
not a challenge before American agriculture more daunting than
repopulating our farms and ranches. You all know the statistics. Average age of farmers close to 60. A third of our farmers and ranchers over the age of 65.
We have to repopulate and yet the capital barriers to entry to American
agriculture are great. Using local and regional food systems as a stepping
stone in is an incredibly important strategy. Consumers want locally grow.
They want healthy foods. They want greater access to fresh product, among
other things. And we see that’s a great opportunity for young people to begin
their career. Some will stay in that local regional food space their entire
time. Others will scale up. Either way, it’s a very good thing. So, Suzanne will
talk about the grant that’s a collaborative grant, nearly 4 million
dollar grant, that’s going to a number of institutions with the South Dakota here
in the lead, looking at Food Policy councils, among other
things. And I think that’s great. We have 7 of the 21 grants. The 75 million
dollars is stretched across 21 different awards. Seven of them are really focused
on the importance of sustainable food systems and improving food security, so
the president’s remarks at the onset of this program… very, very important. We also had your very own senator Daschle as the lead speaker at our agricultural outlook
forum last week. It was… it’s USDA’s premier annual conference, and he talked
about George McGovern, and he talked about the growing world population, and
what opportunities as well as challenges that faces. South Dakota has had a lot of
very important leaders in American agriculture. Our own undersecretary of
rural development Dallas Tongsager is leading the charge at USDA, also from
South Dakota. But, anyhow, among these projects that we’re funding today we
have a team at the University of California Berkeley working with tribal
groups trying to figure out sustainable food systems as a way to improve tribal
health and food security. We have research that we’re funding at Virginia
State University that will explore building sustainable urban agricultural
systems… a lot of interest in our cities now around agriculture. SUNY Buffalo will
work to build local government capacity to alleviate food deserts and reconnect
farmers with consumers.So a lot of really innovative exciting work that’s
being funded along with some of the things that you might expect. Work on
improving genetic resistance. We have funding that we’re awarding today at
Michigan State tackling genetics around cattle that will make them better-suited
for what we need. A lot of grants focusing on agricultural diseases. Purdue,
for example, is working to develop new strategies to defend against corn…
the ear rot diseases in corn. Not that corn. The other corn. But it’s impulsive.
So, anyhow, I just want to say that having watched that State of the Union address
by President Obama. He really made the case for the importance of investments
in education and research. The White House has been very, very loud and clear
about the importance of STEM. In particular, STEM education. And so we are really bullish on our research portfolio of programs, even in these tough budget
times. You will see Secretary Vilsack going across the country, and his
leadership team saying, “Now is not the time to cut back in research.” The
challenges have never been so great. The opportunities have never been so great. And we have never been more excited by what we do. So congratulations, South
Dakota! [Music]

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