Farm Bureau gift to enhance plant sciences

Media contact: Catherine Maxwell, 919-513-8294 or catherine_maxwell@ncsu.edu

With strong grassroots support, an initiative aimed at making North Carolina the global hub for plant sciences innovation got a big boost Thursday, March 17, when the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation pledged $500,000 to start the Seeds of Success Fund.

The gift puts NC State University over its $9 million first-phase fund-raising goal for the project. The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative addresses some of agriculture’s most pressing challenges through interdisciplinary research that brings together university, government and industry scientists.

More than 40 organizations, including some of the state’s largest agricultural commodity groups, have contributed to the project. Farm Bureau’s gift came just two days after North Carolina voters approved a $2 billion bond package that includes $85 million for a plant sciences research complex on NC State’s Centennial Campus. NC Farm Bureau also brought significant leadership to the successful passage of the bond.

The building will facilitate research aimed at increasing agricultural yields and profitability in ways that protect the environment and strengthen the economy. An economic feasibility study released in 2015 showed that the state’s Plant Sciences Initiative is projected to add thousands of new jobs and over $366 million annually to the North Carolina economy by 2024.

Farm Bureau’s Seeds for Success Fund will establish the new position of N.C. Farm Bureau Launch director, who will lead the planning and development of the research complex, its organizational structure and initial staffing.

The fund will also be used to ensure stakeholder engagement through the convening of four task forces with representatives from both the university and the agricultural and ag biotechnology industries. Starting with a kickoff meeting on Friday, March 18, these task forces will drive strategic planning, additional fund development, advocacy, program development and facilities planning.

In addition to these task forces, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton is creating a permanent dean’s advisory board to ensure that the initiative maintains a focus on farmers.

After a Seeds for Success Fund signing ceremony at NC State on Thursday (March 17), Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten said that research “will be a key – a hallmark” if the state is to grow its agriculture from a $77 billion-a-year industry to $100 billion to $120 billion a year. “We are proud to make a contribution and help out,” he said.

Chancellor Randy Woodson called the gift “transformative” and a “game-changer.” He said that the Farm Bureau’s support has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in moving the Plant Sciences Initiative forward.

Noting that the gift, the bond passage and the task force kickoff for the Plant Sciences Initiative occurred all in the same week, CALS Dean Richard Linton said, “I think in five or 10 years when we look back, we are going to see the middle of March 2016 as one of the most influential times in North Carolina’s history and the history of agriculture.

“The Plant Science Initiative … will be one of the most significant contributions we make to the state, the nation and the world.”

— Dee Shore, 919-513-3117 or dee_shore@ncsu.edu

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