Two important items within the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill were influenced by South Dakota State University leadership. The areas include educational support for Native American students and provisions that will ensure research and extension funding for soil health.
The bill was passed by U.S. Senate Tuesday and the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. It now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law.
“The provisions in the farm bill pertaining to support for Native American students and soil health are critical to our state, the region and even the world,” said SDSU President Barry Dunn. “The educational access for American Indian students in South Dakota will provide economic advancement in communities throughout the region, while research in soil health will benefit agriculture around the globe.
“I personally would like to thank our Washington, D.C., delegation—Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem—for their efforts to include these provisions in the bill, as well as our Vice President for Research and Economic Development Daniel Scholl for his leadership and work with our delegation on the importance of soil health research.”
The bill includes language that would support Native students to attend 1862 land-grant universities like SDSU as well as eligibility for tribal colleges with land-grant status to participate. SDSU increased its efforts to support Native students when the university launched the Wokini Initiative in 2016 to provide innovative university- and communitywide collaboration to strengthen American Indian student success by building authentic partnerships with tribal communities.
“One of the challenges with providing access to higher education for Native students is a sustainable funding model.” Dunn said. “The Wokini Initiative addresses that need and certainly the effort of many to include a pathway within the farm bill will ensure greater success.”
In addition to the Wokini Initiative, the farm bill also includes provisions that direct the USDA to treat soil health as a priority for research, extension and conservation.
According to Scholl, this will allow SDSU scientists and specialists to respond with research and extension projects that will compete for USDA grants to improve existing technologies and practices to build soil health in South Dakota and beyond.
“These provisions in the farm bill for soil research and conservation address a critical need in today’s agriculture industry,” Scholl said. “Healthy soils are as fundamental to life as abundant fresh water. Conservation, farming, ranching and many other industries are dependent on highly productive and healthy soils and SDSU is going to be a global leader in research and innovation that has a positive impact.”
Scholl also noted that the research will be closely tied to precision agriculture, a growing area at SDSU that includes an academic major and the Raven Precision Agriculture Center that will be constructed in the coming year.
“The grand challenge to feed a growing global population has not changed and it’s critical that we meet those needs through enhancements in technology and conservation,” Scholl said. “The rapid development of our precision agriculture technologies not only educate tomorrow’s farmers and ranchers, but will also provide new methods to manage and conserve farm and ranch land. Soil health will be a critical component of all new and ongoing farm and ranch practices.”