STARKVILLE, Miss.--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 (FFAR) at the group's inaugural meeting on Aug. 7.
Keenum was appointed to a three-year term on the FFAR board of directors last month by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Daniel R. "Dan" Glickman was selected FFAR's chairman.
Upon learning of his election, Keenum said: "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."
At the group's inaugural meeting, Keenum said the FFAR 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 Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.
Keenum is a graduate of MSU with degrees in agricultural economics, and he began his career at MSU 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. Senator Thad Cochran in Washington, DC and was Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to returning home to Mississippi State.
Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation which must be matched by non-federal funds as the foundation identifies and approves projects.
In addition, FFAR fosters collaboration amongst 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 FFAR Board of Directors, I'm extremely honored personally and on behalf of Mississippi State University to have this very meaningful opportunity for national service," said Keenum. "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.
For more information on Mississippi State University, visit www.msstate.edu.