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Federal Ag Funding Benefits State Work
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- More than $12 million in federal support provided by Congress through the Agriculture Appropriations Act will fund Mississippi State University projects in agriculture, forestry and rural health in 2001.
Sen. Thad Cochran heads the ag appropriations committee responsible for dividing the money among worthy projects. This year's ag appropriations is funding a variety of projects in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and MSU's Extension Service and the Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
"Mississippi agriculture, forestry and rural communities are experiencing enormous challenges in our global economy," said Charles Lee, vice president of MSU's Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. "Senator Cochran has recognized these challenges, and we appreciate his faith in our ability to help strengthen the state's competitiveness and enhance the health of rural Mississippians."
Among the projects funded are a rural health initiative, technology transfer efforts, and research on wood utilization and various crops important to farmers.
MAFES received the largest portion of the funding to further research such as aquaculture food safety, improved soybean varieties and precision agriculture.
Vance Watson, MAFES director, said soybean research funding increased from last year to expand a breeding program and continue research in best soybean management practices. New funding was granted for research on alternative crops and value-added products, for efforts to develop disease resistant corn and to study the use of biomass as alternative fuel sources.
"The money appropriated for research on alternative crops and adding value to existing commodities will be distributed competitively within MAFES to support several projects," Watson said. "We want to generate visionary research proposals that may lead to economically viable alternative crops for production and to add value to our current commodities."
Extension received support to further integrate emerging technology into the Extension Service and to improve service to clients. Dan Brook, head of Computer Applications and Service, said the funding is helping network Extension offices, train personnel, offer specialized training for clientele groups in the state and develop application-specific software for users across the state and nation.
"This grant is helping us bridge the gap between the latest technology and its application at the user level," Brook said. "We examine new technology to see its usefulness, then put it in the hands of the users along with training on how to make it work for them."
MSU is one of 10 universities nationwide funded through Congress as a Center for Wood Utilization Research. Research is conducted by the Department of Forestry and the Forest Products Laboratory within the Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
"Our objective in this effort is to provide a continuing program of research and technical assistance to improve the use of Southern pines, to strengthen existing efforts in timber harvesting and wood utilization and to provide support to new research initiatives in these areas," said Bob Karr, interim director of the Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
One result of this research to date has led to the isolation of a bacterium used at wood treating plants for the bioremediation of contaminated groundwater.
The Mississippi Rural Health Corps, a joint venture between the Extension Service and Mississippi community colleges, received $2.1 million from the Agriculture Appropriations Bill to improve the health of rural Mississippians. Bonnie Carew, project coordinator, said MSU's Extension Service provides informal health education to more than 60,000 Mississippians on a variety of subjects and works with community leaders to form local coalitions to address health concerns.
"We also offer Rural Medical Scholars, a six-week summer program that encourages high school students to pursue careers in family medicine," Carew said.