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Keenum named as officer in new food, ag foundation
By Sid Salter
MSU Office of Public Affairs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum was elected by his fellow directors as vice chairman of the 15-member board of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research at the group’s inaugural meeting on Aug. 7.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack appointed Keenum to a three-year term on the FFAR Board of Directors last month. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Daniel R. “Dan” Glickman was selected chairman.
“I am honored to have been selected vice chairman by my new colleagues on this important new panel. I look forward to serving in this capacity and working on initiatives that will have a tremendous impact on food and agricultural research now and for generations to come,” Keenum said.
At the group’s first meeting, the board adopted bylaws and voted to accept $200 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation to help establish the foundation.
Keenum said being named vice chairman puts him in position to help lead in establishing board priorities, hiring an executive director and staff and in working with the secretary of agriculture and undersecretary for research, education and economics.
Keenum is a graduate of MSU with degrees in agricultural economics, and he began his career at the university as a faculty member with the Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural Economics, where his primary research and extension work focused on the marketing and economics of aquaculture, specialty crops and forestry. He went on to serve as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in Washington, D.C., and was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture before returning home to Mississippi State.
Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 farm bill, FFAR will operate as a nonprofit corporation seeking and accepting private donations to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation that must be matched by nonfederal funds as the foundation identifies and approves projects.
In addition, the foundation fosters joint efforts among agricultural researchers to address unmet and emerging research needs through grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, and memoranda of understanding.
“As I said after my appointment to the board of directors, I’m extremely honored personally and on behalf of Mississippi State University to have this very meaningful opportunity for national service,” Keenum said. “This appointment strengthens agricultural research from both public and private sources and will have a clearly defined national and global impact and will allow MSU to be represented in this vital process.”
The research funded by FFAR will address issues including plant and animal health; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agricultural and food security; and agriculture systems and technology.
The foundation’s board was chosen to represent the diverse sectors of agriculture. Seven of these board members were selected by the unanimous vote of five ex-officio members from lists of candidates provided by industry, while eight representatives were unanimously elected from a list of candidates provided by the National Academy of Sciences.
In a time of federal budgetary restraints, the new foundation is another innovative way to continue and expand investment in agricultural research. FFAR will complement existing federal and federally funded agricultural science research endeavors and accelerate solutions to the challenges American agriculture.
Keenum was also recently chosen to present the 2014 Seaman A. Knapp Memorial Lecture in memory of “The Father of Extension,” Nov. 2 in Orlando, Florida, at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.
For more information on MSU, visit http://www.msstate.edu.
Contact: Sid Salter, News Bureau (662) 325-3442