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The College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University has been awarded a $500,000 Arkansas Meat and Poultry Processing grant to expand and improve laboratory space devoted to livestock research.
“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture looks forward to working with A-State on this impactful project,” state Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward said in a news release. “We know that A-State will help our producers meet consumer demand for locally grown meat products during COVID-19 related disruptions and assist with research to improve skills for our local small producers.”
The grant program is funded by the federal CARES Act, and it sets A-State up to become a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected facility, which, according to Professor David Newman, would elevate the profile of its program. Upon completion of the project, the school will seek full USDA inspection approval for its processing area.
“Two of the pillars of our Discover 2025 strategic plan are to enhance our research and teaching capabilities and to increase our community-based projects,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “Thanks to the support of Secretary Ward and the confidence in our proposal by his industry-based review committee, Arkansas State can embark on new projects in our College of Agriculture.”
Dean Mickey Latour said, “Our goal is to work with our local and statewide producers to educate both our students and individuals in industry on best-practices related to meat processing. Arkansas has a vital role in our nation’s food production, and Northeast Arkansas in particular is seeing significant growth in the production of all types of protein for the plate.”
“We have outgrown the existing facilities that date back to the 1970s, and with changes to campus, those facilities cannot accommodate the variety of locally-grown meat products that we want to produce and sell to the public,” added Associate Dean Donald “Bud” Kennedy. “This grant allows us to renovate, and potentially shift to new facilities at our Agricultural Teaching and Research Center here in Jonesboro.”
In addition, the project brings to the table additional opportunities for future coordination with a proposed College of Veterinary Medicine at A-State.
A-State and Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge were the only higher education partners selected to receive grants from the new program.