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Woman Working in Garden

Working for a Better Tomorrow

Our food and agricultural systems face complex challenges as the physical environment and human societies change. Public investment in research and development is key to increasing agricultural productivity, food safety and security, community resilience, environmental stewardship, and economic growth.


As part of the Land-grant University system, and with the support of USDA funding, Agricultural Experiment Stations (AES) and agricultural research programs at universities and historically black and tribal colleges are uniquely positioned to improve natural resources, food, and agricultural systems.

Learn about what we are working on today, to improve tomorrow for everyone.

Our Current Priorities


Land-grant institutions are committed to overcoming past
injustice and ensuring equal opportunity, diversity, inclusion. It is our duty to ensure our programs and services do not perpetuate systems of oppression and injustice.


We challenge ourselves to not simply strive to become non-racist but commit to an active anti-racist agenda in all aspects of our work.

Black woman scientist in a laboratory. Image by National Cancer Institute
Image by Erwan Hesry


The land-grant university system serves the nation by fostering excellence in research innovation while providing avenues to train future global leaders in agriculture and food systems. 

Unless the federal government moves quickly to address the growing funding gap for schools of agriculture, the United States risks falling behind on the world stage. 


Land-grant universities understand the critical impact our changing climate has on our communities. We aim to be at the forefront of global climate research and education.


Our work brings hope and opportunity through partnerships between community, research, and teaching in a way that only land-grant universities can.

Cultivation professional working with spinach



Land-grant institutions and the Experiment Station Section have a duty to understand how they have benefitted from racial injustice and to ensure their programs and services do not perpetuate systems of oppression and injustice. We challenge ourselves to not simply strive to become non-racist but commit to an active anti-racist agenda in all aspects of our work.


During the annual 2020 Experiment Station Section meeting, the opening session was dedicated to “inclusive excellence.” From that session, the attached summary report was written1. During the opening work session, the Experiment Station Section directors identified four diversity challenge areas and discussed potential actions to address those challenges. These are listed in the report. Prior to and coincident with the ESS meeting, the United States was in the midst of civil unrest boiling over from years of racial injustice and the need for all Americans to acknowledge and address racial inequities. During his leadership term, ESCOP Chair, Moses Kairo declared that the first of the Chair’s Initiatives was: Fully integrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as an essential component of all our programs. Last, the Diversity in Research Leadership Task Force, the predecessor to the DCC, recommended strategies to broaden the diversity of leaders holding research administrative positions. Many of the suggestions made by that task force are reiterated here. It is to these ends that the DCC shares the following reflections and recommendations.

Diversity and Inclusion Challenge Areas:
The Experiment Station Section Directors identified four diversity and inclusion challenge areas. These included:

  • Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce: developing a pipeline to support inclusive excellence.

  • Strengthening partnerships among the 1862/1890/1994 institutions.

  • Addressing funding challenges/disparities across the three LGU systems.

  • Reaching/working with underserved populations.

Call to Action:
The DCC issues a Call to Action to engage all directors. Of the challenge areas listed above, the DCC asks you to identify a challenge that you intend to address in the upcoming year and use the following questions to guide your action steps.

  • What actions do you intend to take?

  • What is the timeline on your actions and what resources will you deploy?

  • What gaps will you address and what obstacles do you anticipate?

  • What goals do you expect to reach?

  • What will diversity and inclusion look like on your campus or station?

  • How does your response to this Call to Action fit into the long-term diversity an inclusion strategies of the station, the college and university?

DCC Actions:
The DCC will periodically ask each director what they’ve undertaken. The DCC will work with NIFA to profile exemplary actions of the directors. The DCC will seek directors to share what they’ve done in a series of best practice sessions. The DCC will encourage submission of nominations for Diversity and Inclusion Award winners and celebrate your accomplishments. 


Diversity Catalyst Committee

The Diversity Catalyst Committee (DCC) champions a long-term diversity and inclusion agenda for ESS with goals, metrics, timelines, implementation activities, and continuity of practice with a rolling three-year plan. The DCC engages in topics of diversity in research leadership across the Land-grant university system, provides ideas and actions for consideration, and supplements institutional, regional and national diversity and inclusion efforts. The focus is primarily on enhancing the diversity among the Experiment Station Directors, Research Directors, and their associates and assistants.

Farming machines


Ensure Ample Funding

The land-grant university system serves the nation by fostering excellence in research innovation while providing avenues to train future global leaders in agriculture and food systems. The public extramural research enterprise accelerates technology adoption, growth of the agricultural and food marketplace, entrepreneurship, and public-private partnerships.

However, the land-grant university system faces unprecedented infrastructure challenges. More than 69% of research and education facilities at land-grant university colleges of agriculture are at the end of their life cycles. U.S. researchers and educators are being asked to perform 21st century science in facilities constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.

A February 2021 Gordian study, A National Study of Capital Infrastructure at Colleges and Schools of Agriculture makes clear that unless the federal government moves quickly to address the growing funding gap for schools of agriculture, the United States risks falling behind on the world stage.


APLU seeks $11.5 billion over 5 years to address the agricultural research infrastructure issues at colleges and schools of agriculture through an economic stimulus bill. (A 2015 study conducted by Gordian (formerly Sightlines) initially raised the alarm, identifying approximately $8.4 billion in infrastructure and deferred maintenance needs across more than 90 institutions.)

Researchers and educators perform 21st century science and education in facilities constructed in the 1950s and 1960s. These buildings and facilities are at the foundation of our nation’s food, fuel, and fiber security and at the starting point of food and agricultural innovations.

Every year, land-grant universities graduate more than 36,000 students in food, agricultural, and natural resources disciplines. In 2019, agriculture and related industries contributed over $1.09 trillion to the U.S. GDP, 5.2% of the total GDP. Our agricultural industry is responsible for 22.2 million jobs or 11% of U.S. employment.

Chart showing the problem with deferred maintenance across 97 institutions.
National study of capital infrastructure at colleges article

Modern agricultural research and education facilities serve as the backbone of cutting-edge research and applied science solutions that address climate change, agricultural profitability, food safety, zoonotic disease preparedness, personalized nutrition, biosecurity, new biobased packaging and energy innovations, and advanced market analysis.


Gordian, a firm with more than 30 yrs. of experience analyzing cost data and planning services for buildings, evaluated current facilities at U.S. schools of agriculture for research, teaching, and Extension. In 2020, Gordian assessed the state of facilities at the colleges or schools of agriculture, reporting that 69% of the buildings are at the end of their useful life. Gordian reports that the cost of upgrading deferred maintenance in 2021 is $11.5 billion, with a replacement value of $38.1 billion.

Learn more about the funding needs of APLU institutions, and how you can help.

The ESCOP Budget and Legislative Committee (BLC) is charged with developing annual justifications for the federal budget process, in consultation with other sections of the BAA and other stakeholders; recommending appropriate science and technology programs that are linked to multistate and national research initiatives; and providing guidance in the assessment of impacts resulting from SAES/ARD system.  The Finance Committee (FINC), a subcommittee of the ESCOP BLC, manages our investments operating under the Investment Policy.

Weed growing in dry desert



The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced Colorado State University will lead the scientific community in the creation of the Roadmap for Addressing Climate Change Science in Agriculture: A Horizon Scan 2023-2033.


A Horizon Scan is an assessment process that looks at emerging issues, threats, and innovations to aid in policy-making decisions. In this application, the horizon scan will refine the national agricultural research priorities for the next decade, for more information about the Horizon Scan approach for this project please see the attached brief. CSU, supported by its subcontractor the Meridian Institute, will establish the Core Horizon Scan Planning Group (Core Group) to inform and guide this work.  


The Core Group’s role will be to:

1) help refine the Horizon Scan scope and objectives

2) determine the National Climate Change Working Group participants

3) advise the Horizon Scan process on an as-needed basis

4) participate in final review of core deliverables including the Horizon Scan Synthesis, Climate Change Roadmap, and outline of an implementation plan.


The first priority of the Core Group will be to support CSU’s formation and management of the Working Group which will identify critical and timely research, extension, education, and engagement activities broadly relating to the development of an NCCR that will be used to address key climate change issues in agriculture for nationally funded science programs over the next 10-years.  

Addressing impacts of climate change is a top priority for land-grant institutions. As such, Climate Change is prioritized in ESS's Grand Challenges.


ESS Grand Challenge 2:

Adapt to and Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change Research Priorities


Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon sequestration on agricultural lands

  • Engage the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish minimum soil organic carbon (SOC) thresholds for each crop, planting and grazing practice, and soil type in the United States

  • Establish baselines for carbon sequestered in soils as the result of adopting soil carbon sequestration practices (cover crops, no-tillage, collective grazing, etc.)

  • Support climate resiliency as well as “adapting and mitigating” because agriculture and forestry is the sector that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions


Collect robust data for climate modeling and predictions

  • Promote use of modern sciences and new technologies (e.g., AI, synthetic biology, machine learning, big data, quantum computing, decision-support systems) as a means to innovate and accelerate

  • Address challenges preventing LGU scientists from obtaining producer data


Develop decision-making tools that account for variability and uncertainty

  • Develop remote sensing technologies to verify the adoption of soil carbon sequestration practices

  • Increase the number of data scientists with expertise in artificial intelligence to handle data generated by producers

  • Create and share data across geographies


Breed crops and livestock that can tolerate water stress and extreme temperatures

  • Develop new plants for greater carbon yields

  • Develop adapted varieties and cultivars for local environments

  • Use modern breeding methods and data handling techniques to shorten the GxE timeframe

  • Use systems approaches to precision nutrition, improved waste management systems, feeding groups of animals instead of individuals


Improve climate change education

  • Engagement and demonstration are key to adoption (participatory research engages the community and external audiences)

  • Create regional-level efforts to connect food producers and consumers into the research process and create greater buy-in for research solutions and recommendations

  • Develop citizen science approaches to speed up the adoption


Guide policy and regulation and enhance global cooperation

  • Engage State Departments of Agriculture to serve as an aggregator of carbon credits, marketing and selling credits in the carbon credit market

  • Engage stakeholders to help guide science and policy around climate change both on the farm and at the experiment stations.

  • Work to build stakeholder incentives to address the tapestry of land ownership and land credits to set aside less productive land.

  • Address water quality and quantity policy and conflicts across federal and state agencies and academia through a whole-of-government approach

  • Evaluate and integrate environmental and social justice activities into climate change programs

  • Address increased water intake and storage across states in a systematic approach

Science & Technology Committee

The ESCOP Science and Technology Committee (STC) is charged with promoting and enhancing science and technology in the Land-grant university system. The committee assists ESCOP to identify future directions and anticipate and respond to research needs and opportunities for funding. The committee assists in linking science and technology programs to multistate and national research initiatives. The committee recommends how ESCOP will respond to reports, recommendations, and planning documents from the national science community. This committee provides guidance to ESCOP strategic planning and priority setting.

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