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Happy B-day, USDA!

May 15 was the 150th anniversary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

It was an incredible act of leadership that, in the midst of the greatest turmoil our country has ever faced, President Abraham Lincoln signed bills to establish USDA and to enact the Morrill Act. These two actions simultaneously created the foundation for the greatest agricultural research enterprise in the history of humankind. And, in addition, Lincoln’s actions established the mechanism to deliver this information and technology to the people who needed it.

CAHNRS Dean Dan Bernardo, left, with Food and Agroiculture Council member Mario Villanueva.On Monday, the USDA State Food and Agriculture Council met in Pullman and presented WSU with a recognition to commemorate our 120-year partnership in serving the agricultural sector and rural communities of Washington State. I appreciate Mario Villanueva, chair of the Food and Agriculture Council, for the recognition.

We have so many important partnerships with USDA, it’s really not possible to list them all. But a few of the USDA agencies and programs that immediately come to mind are:

  • National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA is, of course, an important funder of our programs, providing critical formula funds (e.g., Hatch, Smith-Lever), but also is CAHNRS’s No. 1 source of competitive funding through programs such as AFRI, SCRI, OREI, and Sun Grant.
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS). WSU is blessed to have one of the largest contingents of ARS scientists located at a land-grant university. Critical ARS facilities are not only located on the Pullman campus, but also at our research and Extension centers in Wenatchee and Prosser. WSU and ARS represent the model state-federal partnership for the agency, as we have worked together to form a truly integrated system where scientists from both organizations work seamlessly and in an integrated fashion to serve our stakeholders.
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA). WSU is home to USDA’s Western Risk Management Education Center, which provides important educational programs to complement the work of RMA and assure that producers can craft the safety net to best serves their needs. This function will be critically important as we undergo significant commodity program reform in the upcoming Farm Bill.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS is a critical collaborator in the funding and operation of the Clean Plant Network. WSU is one of three primary contributors to the CPN which assures that grape, tree fruit, and hop plant material introduced into our state is free of viruses.
  • The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). EFNEP is our largest Extension program and is funded through NIFA. The program assists limited-resource audiences in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behavior necessary for healthy and nutritionally sounds diets. EFNEP reached over 10,000 people in 2011.

So, happy birthday to USDA! We look forward to a strong and fruitful partnership in years to come.