On Senate Floor, Brown Fights to Include Critical Investment for Historically Black 1890 Land-Grant Institutions in Spending Package

Funds Will Go toward Centers of Excellence That Brown Helped Create as Part of the 2018 Farm Bill; Investment Will Support Agricultural Research at Historically Black Institutions Like Central State University

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) demanded his amendment to provide a $5 million investment for research at Historically Black 1890 Land-Grant institutions be included in the Senate spending package that is expected to pass this week. The funds will go toward research at Centers for Excellence on campuses like Central State University in Wilberforce. The House has already passed a spending bill that includes this key research investment for 1890 Land-grant institutions, and Sen. Brown is working to include the same amendment in the Senate spending package. Brown introduced the amendment with Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

Brown secured creation of the Centers for Excellence  at 1890 Land-grant universities, as part of the 2018 Farm Bill that was signed into law in December 2018. The designated lead universities at each center are required to develop public-private partnerships, to ensure that their research activities provide increased access and economic returns to farmers and rural communities, and to contribute to poverty reduction, and reduce health disparities and economic vulnerability of local communities. Additionally, the legislation authorized $50 million in federal funding over five years to be divided evenly between the centers.

As a member of the conference committee tasked with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill, Brown authored and fought to secure investments that will ensure the 1890s can expand their research capacity and outreach in the coming years.

Watch footage of Brown’s remarks here, and read Brown’s remarks as prepared for delivery below:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about amendment number 1088, that I introduced with Senator Jones.

This amendment is straight-forward: it would provide $5 million to fund Centers of Excellence at 1890 land grant universities. The amendment includes an offset.

Let me tell you why I introduced this amendment: the authorization for these Centers of Excellence was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. I offered it as an amendment in the Senate Agriculture Committee. This could be critical for schools like Central State.

The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Ag Committee supported it. The Senate Majority leader supported it as did the Chair of the Ag Appropriations subcommittee.  In fact, the entire Committee supported it—it passed by voice vote. And then when we passed the 2018 Farm Bill and sent it to the president, 87 members of this body supported this language.

These Centers will focus on important challenges facing the agriculture sector and its workforce.

Mr. President, I’d like to submit for the record a letter of support from Dr. Kent Smith Jr., President of Langston University in Oklahoma, on behalf of the Council of 1890 University Presidents.

Dr. Smith notes that the 1890s have been promised these Centers of Excellence for 30 years.

The Senate needs to act and include my amendment to help right this wrong.

I’d like to remind my colleagues that the 1890 land grants were created because many states, rather than allowing African-American students to attend their 1862 land grants, decided to set up a separate system of college and universities.

As many of my colleagues know, the 1890s, despite providing a pathway to the middle-class for generations of mostly African-American students, have been underfunded or ignored since their creation.

I have tried to figure out why my amendment is not acceptable to the majority.

The majority cannot be opposed because the House funded this program because the majority has cleared amendments that duplicate House funding.

It cannot be because my amendment is too expensive as the majority, I am told, is willing to clear a Thune-Hoeven amendment that funds tribal colleges at the same level as my amendment.

I have worked with the Committee to find an offset for my amendment. And even though the authorization is for $10 million a year, at the Committee’s urging I reduced it to $5 million.

I again urge my colleagues to include this common-sense, fully paid for amendment in the appropriations bill.

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