As promised, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture included hemp in the most recent round of sustainable-agriculture research funding. Out of a $146 million investment in sustainable agriculture research, $20 million is earmarked for two multidisciplinary cannabis projects.
Ten million dollars went to Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center project to define economic opportunities in the Western U.S. for hemp. Ten more million went to Black-administered Central State University based in Wilberforce, Ohio, to address food-safety concerns over consuming seafood raised with feed additives. The project will study the viability of hemp as an aquaculture or fish-farming feed ingredient.
Scientists and researchers from Oregon State University’s colleges of business, engineering, and pharmacy and the Extension Service will partner with eight U.S. institutions: 7 Generations (a Native American-owned firm specializing in business development); Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program; University of California, Davis; the University of Nevada, Reno Extension; the USDA Agricultural Research Service; the USDA National Agricultural Library; the USDA Western Rural Development Center; the U.S. Department of Transportation; Volpe National Transportation Systems Research Center; and Washington State University.
The project will address the needs of Native Americans and other rural community farmers and businesses in diverse and generally arid environmental conditions that include irrigated and nonirrigated agricultural production. Specifically, it will focus on the transportation corridor through California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
Critical to creating potential economic opportunities in hemp for the region, the researchers will partner with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and other Native American farmers and tribal leaders to include their cultural and economic needs in business development efforts.
“Our project has set out to ensure those opportunities are equally available and relevant to all kinds of farmers,” said Jeffrey Steiner, associate director of OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.
Central State University’s five-year project, Sustainable Use of a Safe Hemp Ingredient, will investigate methods to boost economic markets and production sustainability for seafood and hemp. Central State University will partner with researchers from the College of Menominee Nation, Mississippi State University, Kentucky State University, University of Delaware, and the University of Kentucky.
The project will develop environmentally and economically sustainable hemp and aquaculture systems, increasing the production of healthy fish in the Menominee Nation. Additionally, it will increase aquaculture diversity by training Black and Native American graduates in agriculture. The overall goal is to develop a robust, resilient, climate-smart food and agricultural system by improving plant and animal production, sustainability, and human and environmental health.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Director Carrie Castille says that investments in research like this “will result in long-term improvements in agricultural practices that will benefit consumers, farmers, and the environment.”
“It takes an inclusive systems approach to tackle these major issues. We are excited to see impacts this research investment will generate for our nation to move us towards solutions that benefit all Americans,” Castille added.
The USDA grants are through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems program.