Impact of Virginia Tech agriculture research highlighted before U.S. House subcommittee
Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, highlighted USDA’s impact on the college, including the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension, to the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology.
On June 14, Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, testified before the United States House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology during a hearing focused on university research and Extension programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"I am amazed by the critical work done at universities in Virginia with our land-grant universities collaborating with USDA to complete cutting-edge research," said U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents Virginia's 7th Congressional District. "We then see research results put into action through Extension. Our Extension system proves time and time again that investment in universities and research directly translates into investments in farmers and our rural communities."
Virginia Tech and its Agricultural Research and Extension Centers and Virginia Cooperative Extension offices are critical in supporting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries, which contribute significantly to Virginia’s economy. Virginia’s largest private industry is agriculture, which has an economic impact of $82.3 billion annually. When combined with forestry, these two industries contribute $105 billion to the state economy and provide more than 490,000 jobs in Virginia, according to a recent study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech works in partnership with federal, state, and local government stakeholders and industry to meet evolving agricultural needs in Virginia as well as throughout the country and around the world.
“USDA funding, which puts scientists in well-equipped laboratories and Extension professionals on the ground, along with the support of innovations and discoveries and effective academic programs, is what makes the land-grant university system so impactful,” Grant said.
Annually, Virginia Tech receives $16 million in capacity funding. Faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alone are awarded an additional $17 million annually, on average, in USDA competitive funds, helping leverage an additional $40 million-plus from other competitive sources, such as federal agencies, state agencies, industry groups, and foundations to advance the food and agriculture industry.
Impacts of USDA capacity and funding at Virginia Tech include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Development of new diagnostic tools that identify disruptive pathogens in soybean fields across the U.S., which facilitates the selection of effective treatments and saves billions of dollars globally.
- Identification of genes for breeding disease-resistant soybeans.
- Development of climate models to examine nitrogen loads in the Chesapeake Bay as more extreme weather events occur and with weather variability.
- Development of the Healthy Beverage Index to measure beverage intake patterns to assess healthy dietary patterns, which can be used to improve public health and assist in the battle against obesity and related chronic diseases.
- Extension funding to support Virginia’s 4-H programs, which reach nearly 200,000 youth from urban and rural areas participating in youth education programs, many of which are from underrepresented groups that would not have access to such programs without 4-H.
- Delivery of outreach and education programs in high schools and hospitals to address the opioid crisis, a crisis that has impacted almost all communities in many ways including the agricultural community.
- Research and extension programs to combat invasive species, such as the spotted lanternfly, the brown marmorated stink bug, and avian flu, which cause millions of dollars in losses.
- Discovery that inclusion of gut microbiome data is an important factor in the prediction of feed efficiency in cattle.
- The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program is an essential nutrition education program that targets low-income populations and is proven to improve diets, increase safe food handling practices, and help make food dollars go farther.
As highlighted in the 2022 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, led out of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, increased public investment in agricultural research and development is essential to accelerate productivity growth that is required for the world’s agricultural systems to be sustainable and resilient to shocks.
“At Virginia Tech, we aspire to be among the best colleges of agriculture and life sciences and among the best land-grant universities for the benefit of the agriculture industry and the people it serves,” Grant said. “USDA funding is essential in meeting this mission.”