The $867 billion farm bill passed by Congress this week includes important wins for land-grant institutions, especially historically black colleges.
The bill, which is set to go to President Trump's desk, would eliminate a provision of the law that for decades required 1890 land-grant universities, including 19 HBCUs, to spend most of their federal extension funding in a calendar year. The change means tuition-dependent colleges will have more flexibility to use that funding for long-term projects, said David Sheppard, senior vice president at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
“We’re no longer in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation,” he said.
The bill would also require that states tell Congress whether they are fulfilling obligations to make a one-to-one match of federal funding for 1890 land-grant institutions. States have continually fallen short of that requirement. But state funds to predominantly white 1862 land-grant institutions have often exceeded federal matching requirements. HBCU supporters hope the new transparency requirement will put more pressure on states to provide equitable funding for those institutions.
The farm bill would also provide $50 million to establish centers for excellence at three historically black colleges to be designated by the agriculture secretary. And it would add $80 million in scholarship funds for HBCU students studying disciplines like farming and agribusiness.
The bill would also make an additional $630 million in funds available for research into food production, safety and security.
"The education, research, and extension work of our land-grant universities improves and saves lives, strengthens communities, and ensures that the next generation will carry that mission forward. The Farm Bill supports all of those efforts," said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, in a statement.