Hoeven, Delegation Push for N.D. Corngrowers' BId to Host National Agricultural Genotyping Center at NDSU

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven and the North Dakota congressional delegation are pushing to make the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS) facility on the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) the site for the newly formed National Agricultural Genotyping Center. The North Dakota Corn Growers Association are bidding to host the new facility, and Hoeven and the delegation have gotten behind them, writing a letter of support to the chief of the National Corn Growers Association, one of the center’s prime sponsors.

The new research center will develop ways to monitor and detect all known corn diseases in one test. Current testing allows labs to identify just one or two of the approximately 18 corn diseases that need to be specifically looked for. Methods developed at the center will eventually have application to crops other than corn.

The test will also help to enhance food safety by helping to test quickly for food borne illnesses. NAGC would have a role in developing test kits to evaluate food borne pathogens that could be tested on site rather than sent to the lab. Such a test would have been of great value in the peanut butter contamination episode a few years back in the southern United States.

Further, the center will work to develop tests for certain genetic traits to help plant breeders and producers eliminate poor seeds and identify desirable traits. One of the concepts the center is considering for the future is to make mobile test kits for farmers or agronomists. A farmer could take a leaf sample and use such a kit to identify diseases before the symptoms become visible to the human eye.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a conferee on the committee that negotiated the final version of the new farm bill, Hoeven worked to include a strong research title in the new legislation. That includes support for research into specialty crops, bioenergy, bio-based products and crop diseases.

The senator also serves on the Appropriation Committee, where he worked to maintain strong funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill for research. The legislation devotes $2.4 billion to keeping U.S. producers on the cutting edge of their industry, as well as to America’s land-grant institutions, such as North Dakota State University, adding value to agricultural production and improving environmental stewardship.

In a letter to Dr. Richard Vieding, Director of Research at the National Corn Growers Association, Hoeven and the delegation made the case that North Dakota and the USDA–ARS facility are uniquely qualified to host the center for a broad range of reasons.

“We and our staff members have found the research stakeholder meetings that the USDA-ARS conducts to be extremely helpful in understanding the research needs of producers. This process provides producer’s significant input in the type of research they want and will use. Based on our experience with USDA-ARS’s ability to gather producer input, the work your facility is embarking on would be well grounded at the Fargo USDA-ARS.

“North Dakota has the most diverse crop mix of any state in the nation with 42 crops as well as diverse livestock and apiary industries. North Dakota State University is also home to 14 public crop breeding programs and hosts a new BIO Level Security 3 greenhouse that was the vision of farmers and legislative leaders in our region. This diversity would be a great benefit to your new center.

“We strongly support the proposed collaboration between the USDA-ARS and the National Agricultural Genotyping Center. This collaboration will serve you well in the development and operation of your new center,” Hoeven and the delegation wrote.

The National Agricultural Genotyping Center is supported through a public and private partnership of leading research and trade organizations including Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Corn Growers Association and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Its mission is to translate scientific discoveries into solutions for production agriculture, food safety, functional foods, bioenergy and national security.

The complete text of the delegation’s letter can be found here.