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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson & Monsanto Announces Partnership to benefit Alcorn and other 1890s University Students

Congressman Bennie Thompson, Alcorn State University and Monsanto Company announced a partnership that will include other 1890 institutions to provide more opportunities for students interested in pursuing professions in agriculture. The partnership will also provide greater access for black farmers to the latest technologies and best on-farm practices in cotton and vegetables.

Monsanto will initially work with Alcorn State University to establish cotton and vegetable demonstrations with local black farmers in order to narrow the gap in technology adoption among black farmers. The demonstration plots will also provide a component for university student research, bolstering opportunities for students interested in agriculture careers. The program will strive to establish similar partnerships with other 1890 universities including Tuskegee (AL) University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, LA.

“Alcorn State University has been selected as the lead institution for this project,” said Carl Casale, Monsanto Executive Vice President. “We are looking to ASU leadership to enlist broad support for this program so that black farmers and students can realize enhanced benefits and opportunities across several agricultural crops.”

In the fall of 2006, Casale and Congressman Thompson discussed possible improvements for enhancing agricultural opportunities for black farmers and students in the Mississippi Delta region. Monsanto, a global agricultural company, is a leading technology provider to cotton producers and cotton is a major crop in southern agriculture. Additionally, many of the 1890s institutions are involved in significant vegetable research, and Monsanto invests considerable resources annually in vegetables through its Seminis subsidiary. As a result of these conversations between Casale and Thompson, an idea emerged on ways to enhance technology adoption and career opportunities.

“This program will bring together the best and the brightest minds and work to keep that talent in the state of Mississippi,” said Congressman Thompson. “We’ve made a commitment to identify and help remove barriers to technology adoption and career opportunities for blacks in agriculture, but this project is just the first chapter in that endeavor. We’ll be depending on other key leaders to come to the table and discuss ways to break down these barriers.”

“The career component of this program will serve as an important vehicle to support building the broadest, deepest and most diverse talent pipeline possible for agriculture,” said Steve Mizell, Monsanto Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. “We recently established a relationship with the Council of 1890 Presidents and Chancellors through which we’ve already identified a number of extremely talented candidates for Monsanto internships this summer. This new program will augment that process to introduce students to careers at Monsanto and in the agriculture industry.”

“This initiative by Monsanto and Congressman Thompson demonstrates a vested interest in the academics and the future of Mississippi,” said Dr. Dalton McAfee, Interim Dean School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, Alcorn State University. “This is one step in a process that will need further development, but it communicates Monsanto’s commitment and shows they take this issue seriously. I hope others in the industry will step up to the plate instead of just giving lip service.”

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