Today we celebrate the visionary leadership of President Abraham Lincoln in signing the Morrill Act 150 years ago. Even as our nation prepared to enter one of the most brutal and challenging periods of its existence, President Lincoln demonstrated a powerful understanding that America’s success would depend on investment in the agricultural development of its new frontier. His foresight led to the creation of the most productive science- and engineering-based agricultural economy the world has ever seen. The new U.S. land-grant system democratized American access to education, graduating young scientists and engineers who have continued to transform the American economy through generations as no other single investment has.
We are extremely proud of our Agency’s role in sharing the U.S. land-grant model with partners in developing countries. Around the world, we see the critical role that our early partnerships in food, health care and education in countries such as India, Brazil and South Korea have played in helping those countries graduate from aid recipients to donor countries and business partners.
We must have similar transformations across the developing world. As a key component of President Obama’s Feed the Future global hunger and food security initiative, we are reprioritizing investments in research, science and technology, and strengthening our engagement with American land-grant universities. Since 2008, we have significantly increased funding to land-grant universities to support the fight against famine and hunger. In 2011 alone, we have dedicated more than $77 million to agricultural research and related capacity building programs in the developing world. This includes five new agricultural capacity building projects supported by land-grant universities: an Ohio State project in Tanzania, a Purdue project in Afghanistan, a Texas A&M project in South Sudan and a Rutgers/North Carolina State project in Liberia.
We will continue to double-down on our partnerships with U.S. land-grant universities through the new Feed the Future Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program, which will reach students and researchers worldwide and in more than 60 institutions in Africa. And we’re excited about a new innovative program called the Higher Education Solutions Network, which will create and leverage a network of leading experts around the world to help our Agency and country partners solve distinct global development challenges. We also will continue to link scientists at American land-grant universities with their counterparts in emerging and developing nations through Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, our partnership with the National Science Foundation, which recently funded 41 projects from 25 countries to help address common challenges.
We know that when we create smart, targeted partnerships today, we multiply the power of our own investments for decades to come. When President Kennedy founded our Agency fifty years ago, he understood that building a safer, more prosperous world begins through sharing the best our nation has to offer – the knowledge of our farmers, the discoveries of our researchers and the wisdom of our universities. Across the years, the U.S. land-grant community has proudly delivered on President Lincoln’s and Congressman Justin Morrill’s out-sized vision, at home and abroad, and we salute them.