USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small Visits Oregon State University, Highlights Local Innovation and Oregon Ag’s Next Generation

The Deputy’s visit to OSU underscores the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to Land-Grant Institutions.

CORVALLIS, Ore., Feb. 8, 2024 — Oregon State University welcomed U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small on Thursday, February 8, as part of the Deputy Secretary’s ongoing College Tour throughout the United States. Since mid-January, Deputy Secretary Torres Small has been traveling the country visiting Land-grant Institutions like Oregon State to underscore how these colleges and universities are working with the Biden-Harris Administration to advance rural prosperity, climate-smart practices, competition, and sustainability.  

While on campus, Deputy Secretary Torres Small toured the A.A. Red Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory, where, in partnership with the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), students and faculty are conducting cutting-edge research to advance climate resilience, market expansion, and workforce development for America’s farms and businesses. The Deputy Secretary also met with students to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing Oregon’s next generation of farmers, foresters, conservationists, and entrepreneurs. 

“Thanks to historic funding secured by President Biden, USDA is creating new opportunities for the next generation of farmers, foresters, researchers, and entrepreneurs in Oregon,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “These investments will bring economic opportunity back to rural communities, better position students to build a more resilient food system and give them the chance to succeed in the communities they love.” 

USDA and OSU: Partners in Innovation and Conservation 

Deputy Secretary Torres Small’s visit highlights the storied partnership between USDA and OSU, which has borne fruit for agricultural producers not just in Oregon but throughout the United States. Last year, the university made headlines when USDA released a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map developed by OSU’s PRISM Climate Group, the first update to the map since 2012. Researchers at OSU also received a $4.2 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study a deadly disease plaguing honeybees.  

The partnership has also paid off for Oregon’s food businesses and agriculture industry. Last May, OSU Extension’s Meat Processor Assistance Network received a three-year $650,000 grant through USDA NIFA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Agricultural Workforce Training Program, which the university will use to build a pipeline of well-trained meat processing workers and address entry-level worker shortages in the industry, especially in smaller operations. OSU was also tapped to run one of 12 new regional food business centers funded through USDA’s Resilient Food Infrastructure Program, which aims build resilience across the middle of the supply chain and strengthen local and regional food systems. Additional investments include: 

  • 1890 Facilities Grant Program: In FY2023, OSU received more than $1 million for improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment. 
  • USDA’s Next Gen Initiative with 1890 Land-Grant Universities: VSU and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are collaborating to utilize the Emerging USDA Leaders Model Program (EULM) to introduce middle and high school students to the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences sector prior to college through agricultural-focused hackathons, climate-smart agricultural technologies, and other STEM-based experiences. $18.1 million was funded in 2023 among eight land-grant universities by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. 

Cultivating the Future of Oregon Agriculture 

While these investments highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s immediate goal of strengthening America’s rural economies from the bottom up and middle out, OSU and USDA are also focused on to Oregon’s next generation of agriculture professionals. During her visit on Thursday, Deputy Secretary Torres Small met with OSU students for a discussion about their goals, challenges they face, and USDA’s vision for a more sustainable, climate resilient future. Last June, USDA announced a five-year, $10 million grant to OSU Extension Service’s Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America Coordination Network, designating OSU Extension as a National Center of Excellence for Youth Development. The program emphasizes support, collaboration, and technology to ensure the success of youth-led agricultural projects. 

“The partnership between USDA and Oregon State University will benefit businesses and agricultural producers across the country,” said Margi Hoffmann, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon. “Through research, technical assistance, and collaboration, we can ensure that Oregon’s next generation of farmers, conservationists, and entrepreneurs are not only ready to meet the challenges of today but also prepared to build a more equitable, climate resilient future for all Americans.”

Since fiscal year 2021, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has provided more than $5 billion in support to Land-grant University campuses, offering student-centered scholarships to recruit, mentor, and train undergraduate students for jobs in food and agricultural sciences and related fields. USDA is proud to support Land-grant Universities in their pursuit of preparing the country’s next generation of agriculture leaders. 

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit