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Two Missouri universities to help agricultural workers harness new technologies

 Lincoln University will recruit more diverse students to work in agriculture
Lincoln University
Lincoln University will recruit more diverse students to work in agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects a shortage of agricultural workers able to use new technologies and plans to help two Missouri universities better train them.

Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla are two of the 33 campuses nationwide that will be part of a $262 million effort to recruit and train the next generation of agriculture workers.

Missouri S&T’s role will be to develop coursework and training for technology that is becoming more commonplace in the agriculture sector.

“We want the students to be knowledgeable about the new technologies and think how to use those technologies and to support sustainable agriculture,” said Hu Yang, chair of the school’s department of chemical engineering.

Training areas will include precision agriculture, which combines the science of testing and improving soil for specific crop plantings, and how to use drones and other equipment to apply such practices

There will also be an emphasis on improved environmental practices, such as carbon capture and sequestration, and how to implement those practices into farming to reduce its carbon footprint and help mitigate climate change.

“The students will get a mix of lab work to develop the scientific skills as well as hands-on applications, which is important for the changing agricultural workforce development,” Hu Yang said.

Lincoln University, a historically Black college, is the lead institution of a smaller group of universities that will receive $10 million for their projects.

The main focus will be recruiting a more racially and geographically diverse workforce to agriculture.

“We will still recruit students from farm backgrounds and rural areas,” said John Yang, a research professor at Lincoln. “But we will also go to suburban and urban schools and show students there the opportunities for a career in agriculture.”

Racial inequities in the U.S. economy and farm policy have been a barrier for people of color to get into agriculture for decades. John Yang said this program can help change that.

“We are going to focus our activity pretty much on minority or underrepresented populations, recruiting them into agriculture majors and the agriculture workforce,” he said.

Both Missouri S&T and Lincoln University expect to launch initiatives in the coming months. The total length of the grant funding is five years.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jonathan Ahl joined Iowa Public Radio as News Director in July 2008. He leads the news and talk show teams in field reporting, feature reporting, audio documentaries, and talk show content. With more than 17 years in public media, Jonathan is a nationally award-winning reporter that has worked at public radio stations in Macomb, Springfield and Peoria, IL. He served WCBU-FM in Peoria as news director before coming to Iowa. He also served as a part-time instructor at Bradley University teaching journalism and writing courses. Jonathan is currently serving a second term as president of PRNDI ââ
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