Hoeven: North Dakota Selected to Host National Agricultural Genotyping Center at NDSU

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS) Biosciences Research Laboratory on the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) has been selected as the site for the newly formed National Agricultural Genotyping Center (NAGC). Activities at the Center will begin in October.

“The National Corn Growers’ decision reflects the growing respect and attention Fargo and the Red River Valley are getting nationally for the work they’re doing with new and innovative technologies,” Hoeven said. “The collaboration between the USDA-ARS and the National Agricultural Genotyping Center comes as good news for the North Dakota Corn Growers, NDSU, Fargo and our entire state.”

Last month, the North Dakota Corn Growers Association bid to host the new facility, and Hoeven spearheaded an effort to support their bid, writing a letter of support to Dr. Richard Vierling, Director of Research at the National Corn Growers Association, one of the center’s prime sponsors. In the letter, 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.

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 detected. 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 Appropriations Committee, where he has worked to maintain strong funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill for research, which the committee approved in May. 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 NDSU, adding value to agricultural production and improving environmental stewardship.

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.