Alcorn State University’s Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center Advisory Board convenes
Members of Alcorn State University’s new Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center advisory board met in Tunica, Mississippi to discuss its future Thursday, Aug. 11.
The Center specializes in policy research impacting socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The Center’s mission is to make policy recommendations that will improve the success of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by implementing a transparent management structure that focuses on research, stakeholder engagement and outreach.
Director of the Center, Eloris Speight, explained the purpose of the meeting before emphasizing the importance of garnering success in the future.
“The objectives of the meeting are to allow board members to meet, to walk away with a shared understanding of the work that needs to be done to ensure that the Center is successful and to provide input on priorities for the Center in 2017,” said Speight. “Failure is not in my vocabulary. I am committed to the success of this center. It’s already successful because of the individuals that sit in this room.”
Congressman Bennie Thompson spoke on the journey it took for the Center’s existence to come to fruition. Thompson said that the Center has a promising future.
“You are starting something that has the potential to grow,” said Thompson. “Your challenge is to help people like myself and others in Congress to make sure that when legislation comes forward that is of interest to you that you have valuable input. We are depending on you and your experiences.”
Alcorn President Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr. applauded his fellow board members on their dedication to discussing ways of pushing the Center in the right direction.
“All of you have made a commitment to serve on this board and assist us in helping farmers and producers grow across the nation,” said Rankins. “We are relying on your expertise to help guide and set the path for the Center's credibility, and we are going to do that with good research that results in good data.”
Lloyd Wright, who retired from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., said that he is happy to see a place whose purpose is to aid socially disadvantaged farmers.
“This is a day that I’ve been looking forward to for about 20 years,” said Wright. “It’s been clear to me that we have not had a focus on either research or policy development that relates to socially disadvantaged, black farmers. I’m hoping the policy center will do research and point out the disparities.”
Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office, Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, said that if the board stays on one accord, then the Center will flourish.
“Success would be to develop a common understanding of what we want the policy center to do and that results in good irrefutable data that moves the discourse and resources to impact economic opportunities for our people in rural communities,” said Fitzgerald.
Former Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture Mike Espy is happy to assist the Center with its progress.
“I’m here because I want to help Alcorn and because I want to help the Center to be successful. I know the USDA; I’ve seen it from all sides; I have insight and a history of how things work.”
The advisory board will convene for quarterly meetings to keep abreast of the Center’s progress, discuss research opportunities and emerging public policy priorities. For more information, contact Speight at (601) 877-6601.