Proposal spends $68 million in federal COVID funds for Tennessee agricultural research labs

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture on Tuesday presented a plan for $68 million in food sustainability spending at two higher education labs to the state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group.

The expenses would be part of $3.1 billion in federal stimulus spending of the American Rescue Plan Act.

In the funding proposal, $50 million would go to the University of Tennessee for 10 agricultural research and education centers across the state and $18.3 million would go to Tennessee State University for create a center for food and animal sciences.

TSU’s Chandra Reddy, dean and director of research/trustee of the Extension College of Agriculture, said several applicants have turned down positions in recent years because TSU lacks the lab technology. A new building would push the university and state research forward, he said.

Research in the building would focus on “transforming primary grains and meat into products,” according to Reddy, helping farmers and entrepreneurs create new secondary products with raw materials grown in Tennessee.

“Most importantly, we want to bring it to Tennessee businesses,” Reddy said. “This is where this building will provide the visibility, access and technologies that we are looking for. »

UT AgResearch’s Hongwei Xin said his group had to travel out of state for high-tech research, but new facilities would allow his team to “test products, develop them” and create innovation. in Tennessee.

Both research developments would help increase food security in Tennessee, the plan says, while UT’s facilities would “accelerate economic recovery, increase the resilience of agricultural and food supply systems, and improve public health.” .

“This will help us stay on top of the needs that have been identified during the pandemic,” said Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Charles Hatcher.

Lana T. Arthur