(10/11/23) CROWLEY, La. — Developing more strategic partnerships will be critical to the success of the LSU AgCenter and College of Agriculture, the leader of those organizations said Oct. 9.
Speaking from the AgCenter’s H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley, Matt Lee urged faculty and staff to adopt a new mindset when it comes to finding partners who can help them work more efficiently and have a greater impact on the agriculture industry. His address was streamed to AgCenter and college employees and stakeholders statewide.
“The AgCenter and College of Agriculture have always relied upon collaboration and partnerships to carry out our work, and we’ve done so quite successfully,” said Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture. “Over the last two years, though, we’ve started to experience a dramatic shift in our fortunes.”
That’s because LSU President William F. Tate IV has named agriculture as one of five top priorities for the LSU System, Lee said, which has afforded a new level of prominence to the AgCenter and College of Agriculture. The AgCenter also has recently completed a reorganization of its administrative structure and set new goals for fundraising and securing grants.
Lee said these changes are important as rural, agricultural areas throughout the United States cope with declining populations while the global population continues to grow.
“Because of this context, we are really challenged to innovate and be more impactful than we have ever been before,” he said. “We’ll have to come up with ways to get more food and fiber from less land and water. We’ll need better ways to communicate those tools out to empower local producers.”
The AgCenter has a long history of collaborating with local governments and community groups. Faculty and staff should continue that tradition, Lee said, while also pursuing relationships with:
— State and federal agencies. The AgCenter has had partnerships with these entities in the past. “They have been steady, but they have been modest,” Lee said. “We have tremendous opportunity to grow in this area.”
— Legislative bodies. State legislators and members of Congress can help secure dollars allowing the AgCenter and college to fund new hires, raises for current employees, equipment and facilities. With many seats up for grabs in this fall’s election and the likelihood of many newcomers in the next state legislative session, advocating for agriculture will be crucial, Lee said.
— Industry. Working with private companies can help turn research findings into real-world solutions faster, Lee said. College students also can benefit from these relationships through internships that allow them to gain work experience.
— Other universities. Collaborating with university partners can open the door to working on larger-scale projects and being able to take advantage of other funding sources.
“The AgCenter is on the move,” Lee said. “We’ve got a lot of great things going on the research front, a lot of great activities and programming going on the extension front, and our goal is to continue to strengthen that to give you all the tools to be successful and to enhance our impact for the state and for the industry.”
Michael Salassi, director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, detailed a few recent successes:
— Several key hires have been made in priority research areas.
— The experiment station now has Andy Schade on staff as coordinator of faculty support. His responsibilities include identifying funding opportunities for research.
— In the past year, faculty submitted $136 million in grant proposals, up from $85 million the year before.
— The Board of Regents has approved the creation of the Center of Research Excellence for the Study of Invasive Species in the AgCenter.
— AgCenter faculty are collaborators on a $26 million National Science Foundation proposal funding a multi-university engineering research center.
— The AgCenter is working on purchasing new farm equipment for research stations.
— Louisiana 4-H ended the 2022-23 school year with more than 91,000 youth participants and more than 10,000 volunteers.
A recording of the address can be viewed at www.lsuagcenter.com/PartneringForOurFutureOct2023.
Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, gives an address Oct. 9 at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU AgCenter
Employees of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley listen as Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, gives an address Oct. 9. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU AgCenter
Michael Salassi, director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, speaks Oct. 9 about investments the LSU AgCenter is making in its research programs. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso, left, poses with Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, by a sign at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley. Lee was at the station Oct. 9 to deliver an address about the importance of strategic partnerships. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU AgCenter