Tennessee State University Ag Professor Receives $650,000 in Grants for Food Safety and Disease Prevention Research

By JOAN KITE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University professor Dr. Ankit Patras has received two grants totaling $650,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Trojan Technologies of Canada, and California-based Aquafine Corporation. The grants will fund research to make food safer by eliminating harmful viruses and bacterial endospores in juices and other beverages.

Dr. Ankit Patras

In the NIFA grant, Patras, as principal investigator, and his research team at TSU, including Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge and Dr. John Rickettes are collaborating with researchers at the University of Tennessee, and the Institute of Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Together, Patras and his fellow researchers will study the effect of highly energetic photons at 253.7 nm wavelength for the inactivation of viral particles, bacterial spores, and mycotoxins.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, said TSU is glad to partner with USDA and private industry in a research project that is aimed to make food safe for consumers without worrying about bacterial or viral contamination and illnesses.

“Dr. Patras is one of the national leaders in this area of research and he and his team are exploring some novel ways to contain or eliminate bacteria and viruses in foods through these grants,” Reddy said. “As our new Food Science building comes online in a year or so, we will intensify the food science research at TSU.”

Dr. Ankit Patras demonstrates the thin film pilot UV system, a novel pasteurization technology for inactivating viruses and bacterial endospores in liquid foods. Research Fellow Dr. Brahmiah Pendyala looks on. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

According to Patras, who is research assistant professor of agricultural science, the ultimate goal of this project is to develop new and improved non-thermal technologies to inactivate viruses and bacterial endospores. He said one of the unique aspects of the project is the use of novel approaches for ensuring uniform UV exposure to bacterial and viral particles in fluids, without any arbitrary fluence rate distribution and uncertainty in the delivered UV fluence within the UV systems.

“Another important aspect of the study is to create science-based knowledge and bridge existing knowledge gaps by assessing the sensitivity of target foodborne viruses and spores to this treatment,” Patras said. “We want to identify markers of oxidative stress, which can be correlated to microbial inactivation.”

Madison Purifoy, a graduating senior participating in a science summer program for exceptional high school seniors, explains her findings in an experiment where she tested e coli in synthetic fluid using UV radiation to see if it will grow or create mutations. Purifoy is from Plano West Senior High School in Plano, Texas. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The team will develop chemical and biological sensors (biodosimeters) to quantify the UV dose delivered to pathogenic targets ensuring accurate dose delivery. The overall integrated approach will generate fundamental knowledge on the inactivation of viruses and bacterial spores on bench and commercial UV systems. Members of federal agencies including USDA-ARS, US-FDA, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are on the advisory board. Patras’s grant is one of the few awarded by the AFRI Foundation and Applied Science Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Among Patras’ team at TSU is Taylor Ribeiro, a third-year Ph.D. student in biological sciences, who is working on the inactivation of bacterial in blue berry-flavored functional beverage. She said it feels good to be working with something that’s in the forefront of technology because “current pasteurization methods are starting to fail us.”

Some members of Dr. Patras’s research team in the Meats Processing Lab at TSU (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

“We are starting to see outbreaks left and right. So, to be at the forefront of something that is going to be global pretty soon is a big deal for me,” said Ribeiro, who is from Chesapeake, Virginia. “I am enjoying it. I enjoy working with Dr. Petras and the rest of the team.”

In the second grant, Patras and Co-PI Dr. Hongwei Si will evaluate the cytotoxicity of irradiated liquid foods. Cytotoxicity of irradiated liquid foods must be evaluated to ensure the novel food processing techniques do not produce cytotoxic chemical compounds.

UV photons can break chemical bonds and could result in modifying compounds in foods. UV disinfection itself is the result of forming dimers (bonds) between adjacent pyrimidines in the nucleic acids of bacteria and viruses. The team aims to evaluate the cytotoxicity against normal colon, blood cells and study the protein expression of these cells. Experiments will be conducted mimicking the human gastric system.

For more information on TSU’s College Agriculture, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Nashville Mayor Extols Verizon Innovative Learning Program with Middle School Students During Visit to Tennessee State University

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Thirteen-year-old Carlile Burgess wants to one day be a technician at Verizon, and he thinks a summer program at Tennessee State University has opened the door for him.

Nashville Mayor David Briley; and Thomas Francis, Verizon Innovative Learning program coordinator, right, observe students as they work on a program during class. (Photo BY Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

“I love technology in general especially with Verizon because I like working with their equipment,” said the 8th grader from Nashville’s East Middle School. “I want to work with them; if they have a crash or something, I can fix it.”

Burgess has big dreams and he is not alone. On Tuesday, he and about 80 other students in grades 6-8 from the Nashville Metro Public Schools got a chance to show Nashville Mayor David Briley new technology they are learning on the TSU campus as part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Program.

The VIL, a partnership between TSU and Verizon, gives the students a firsthand experience in “the vital role technology plays in today’s world, empowering them to become creators and makers,” a Verizon release said.

Eighth-grader Carlile Burgess, middle, and fellow students work on a circuit board. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

Mayor Briley’s visit allowed him to see students participating in hands-on coursework in virtual reality, augmented reality, 3-D printing, robotics and electronics. He said it was very encouraging to get the students interested early in technology.

“This is clearly a part of the economy that is growing and we need to make sure our young folks are ready to compete,” Briley said. “So, having a partnership between Tennessee State and Verizon and Metro Schools is a great thing to be doing this summer for these young men.”

Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff, who welcomed the mayor on behalf of TSU President Glenda Glover, said the university was excited to be a part of the training program for the students, he described as future leaders who could one day become TSU Tigers.

About 80 middle school students are participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning program on the Tennessee State University campus during the summer. (Pohto by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

“We are excited that the mayor can come out to see some of the many great things that are taking place here on our campus with youth from the community who are being developed for future leaders here at Tennessee State,” Johnson said.

Also, on hand to greet the mayor was Dulaney L. O’Roark III, from Verizon Government Affairs. He said Verizon is very proud to sponsor the program.

“It means a lot to bring these young men to really experience cutting-edge technology to be able to envision themselves on a college campus learning about virtual reality, computing and all of the newest innovations,” O’Roark said. “We are really honored that the mayor would come and be a part of the program and express to the young men how supportive he is of them being part of this learning experience.”

According to Verizon, the three-week program for minority male students is intended to prepare them for future tech careers through intensive coursework in design and product development while being mentored by relatable professional STEM role models. The program helps participants acquire technical and soft skills to reach a higher level of academic achievement.  After summer courses are completed,  students will make monthly visits to TSU for STEM education courses and individual mentoring with undergraduate and graduate students.

Thomas Francis, a STEM instructor, is a coordinator of the VIL program at TSU. He said the students are also developing friendships and learning to work together.

“The students are leaning with other students who are like-minded like them and that’s important in learning technology and in putting math and science together,” Thomas said.

For more information on Verizon Innovative Learning program, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/documents/VerizonTSUCampFlyer.pdf

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU receives $2M from Governor to assist with retention and graduation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University will receive $2 million to support retention of academically high achieving students from underserved communities.  

The funds were included in Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s budget during the recent legislative session, and approved by state lawmakers. The money will be received as a lump sum with the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“The main reason many of our students can’t return is due to financial hardship, so the allotment of these funds is great for Tennessee State University, and especially our students,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “The $2 million will help us keep students who may not have money to return. We’re thankful to Gov. Bill Lee, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and state lawmakers for making the funds possible.”

Sophomore Jahnari Edwards of Phenix City, Alabama, said the money will be particularly beneficial to out-of-state students like herself.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Edwards, who is majoring in agriculture. “Something like this, especially for out-of-state students, will help.”

Katelyn Thompson, a graduating senior and president of TSU’s Student Government Association, agreed.

“I think it’s outstanding that we’re getting this money,” Thompson said. “A lot of our students need assistance, especially our out-of-state students. They worry about paying their tuition because of fees, and they are some really talented students. So, this will allow us to help those students who need assistance for their education.”

Horace Chase, TSU’s vice president for business and finance, said the “university is constantly seeking ways to assist students with furthering their education and enabling them to persist despite their various challenges.”

“Understanding that some students have greater financial challenges than others, but yet have similar potential to excel academically, these funds will give them the opportunity to succeed,” Chase said.

In 2017, TSU implemented higher admission standards to attract quality students. At the same time, the university began initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates, such as increasing the number of coaches to help students with their personal and educational goals.

Last month, TSU got a commitment from Memphis high school graduate Tupac Moseley, who was homeless his senior year, but managed to graduate valedictorian of his class, and receive more than $3 million in scholarship offers.  

Dr. Glover personally led a team of senior university officials to Memphis and presented Moseley with a full-ride scholarship, including housing and a meal plan. TSU Dean of Students Frank Stevenson was a part of that group that went to Memphis.  

“Any assistance that is available for students is a win-win for Tennessee State University,” said Stevenson. “It’s an awesome opportunity to continue to help students move forward with getting their education and their degrees.” 

To learn more about attending TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/admissions/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Receives 11 Nominations For 2019 HBCU Digest Awards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is a finalist in 11 categories of the 2019 Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ Digest Awards.

The winners will be announced at the ninth annual HBCU Awards ceremony to be held on August 2 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in downtown Baltimore. 

TSU is a finalist for University of the Year, and TSU President Glenda Glover is in the running for Female President of the Year.

Other TSU nominations are:

Best Marching Band: Aristocrat of Bands

Best HBCU Choir: New Direction Choir

Best Fine Arts Program: Department of Music

Best Science, Technology, Engineer and Mathematics (STEM) Program: College of Engineering

Best Business Program: Executive MBA Program

Alumna of the Year: Traci Otey Blunt

Female Coach of the Year: Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice

Male Athlete of the Year: Christion Abercrombie

Male Student of the Year: Jailen Leavell

The HBCU Awards is the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievement at historically black colleges and universities throughout the country. Winners are selected by a panel of previous winners, journalist, HBCU executives, students and alumni for the merit of accomplishment and for generating positive coverage for HBCU campus communities.

Last year, Tennessee State University received awards for “Best Student Organization” and “Alumnus of the Year.”

The year before that, TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands and the university’s College of Engineering received top honors in the HBCU Digest Awards.

In 2015, TSU’s women’s basketball team got Female Team of the Year, and student activities received Best Student Organization.

To see all the 2019 HBCU Awards finalists, visit: https://bit.ly/31JbrRF

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Ag professor receives close to $1M to study crops’ adaptation to climate change

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A Tennessee State University agriculture professor has received close to a million dollars to conduct research that will study how crops adapt to climate change.

Dr. Jianwei Li received the $999,429 from the National Science Foundation. It will be used to study the effects of high temperatures on microbiome, or the combined genetic material of microorganisms in a particular environment, in cropland soils in Middle Tennessee.

TSU Assistant Professor Dr. Jianwei Li (from right) is pictured with his climate change lab team Visiting Scholar Jianjun Duan, doctoral student Siyang Jian, and master’s student Madhav Parajuli. (Photo by Joan Kite, College of Agriculture)

Li said there is very little data in this area, and the consequential release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which scientists say is one of the main greenhouse gases causing global warming.

“We want to increase soil fertility, productivity, and potentially reduce the carbon dioxide, greenhouse emission,” said Li of the research, which will help scientists better determine how much carbon dioxide is being emitted.

Earth’s global surface temperature last year was the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists say atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are at the highest levels ever recorded.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, said the grant is “very timely.”

“The climate change is there, whether politically some of us believe it or not,” Reddy said. “It is a reality.”

Li will work on the project with co-principal investigators TSU professor Dr. Dafeng Hui, TSU associate professor Dr. Jason P. de Koff, and University of California, Irvine professor Dr. Steven D. Allison.

This fall, TSU scientists will prepare a research plot to grow the biofuel crop switch grass at the Agricultural Research and Education Center. Using a soil gas flux system, the plot will be kept heated even through winter, and soil and gas samples will be routinely collected in high frequency.

The grant also seeks to specifically train young minority students in global environmental change issues, including climate change. Each year, an undergraduate student will be selected to receive formal training for two months at the University of California, Irvine, where the student will acquire experience in molecular analysis and microbial trait-based modeling.

Li envisions the grant as seed money to help build a permanent experimental infrastructure and develop an interpretive display on climate change to educate farmers and school children throughout Tennessee.

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Graduate School Dean Robbie Melton Inducted into 2019 USDLA Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The United States Distance Learning Association inducted Tennessee State University’s interim dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, Dr. Robbie K. Melton, into the USDLA 2019 Hall of Fame at the association’s national conference held recently in Nashville.  

USDLA, the nation’s leading distance learning organization, honored Melton, along with other outstanding distance learning professionals, last month during the presentation of its 2019 International Distance Learning Awards because of their contributions to the field of distance and online learning.

Melton, who was recently elected to the USDLA Board of Directors, said this honor gives her the opportunity to tell more people about the advancements taking place at TSU.

“When you receive an award of this high caliber, it brings recognition, not to the person, but to the institution, and that was the honor in receiving this award, because then I could stand up and say I am a faculty member at Tennessee State University,” she said.

The USDLA International Awards are presented annually to organizations and individuals engaged in the development and delivery of distance learning programs.

Dr. Reggie Smith III,  executive director of USDLA, said the association enjoys honoring leaders within the industry.

“Each year these recognized leaders raise the bar and exceed best practice expectations for the industry as a whole, and we are truly honored by their contributions within all distance learning constituencies,” he said.

Melton’s knowledge of how to best use mobile apps and mobile devices as teaching tools, as well as her creation of the Mobile App Education Workforce Resource Center, have earned her the title “App-ologist.”

Her presence at TSU has strengthened the university’s relationship with many major corporations, such as Verizon, AT&T, Dell, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Samsung, who all currently support initiatives at TSU.

“Right now, I am transitioning into the HBCU C2, ‘Everyone Can Code, And Everyone Can Create’ Initiative that is supported by Apple, where everyone at TSU, students, faculty, staff and community partners, will be embraced and immersed into coding and creativity,” she said.

Now a technology guru, Melton started her career as a special education teacher with a vision for using distance education as a tool to help hospitalized students with disabilities connect with schools.

“I’m one of the old pioneers in distance education before the Internet,” she said. “I was always a risk taker, and a person willing to try out the new technology in terms of developing new courses, teaching online, training online and using different tools online.”

Melton, who formerly served for 20 years as the associate vice chancellor of Mobilization Emerging Technology for the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), has amassed many other awards throughout her career, including the 2016 Online Learning Consortium Leadership Award, the 2016 MERLOT Technology Distinguished Leadership Award, and the 2016 WCET Richard Jonsen Award. She has lectured internationally as a keynote speaker in Scotland, Rotterdam, Malawi, Scotland, France, Argentina and Canada.

She credits her husband, Thomas Melton, with playing a vital role in her success.

“To support all my passion, energy and activity, I have a supportive family, particularly my husband who works to make sure that I am able to do these things,” said Melton, who attended Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s inaugural United State of Women Summit in June 2016 as an invited guest because of her work  in technology.

Ultimately, she envisions Tennessee State University becoming the number one university in emerging technology.

“We at Tennessee State University have the knowledge, the skill, the passion and the foresight that companies need in order to make what I call appropriate effective safe secure technology tools,” she said.  “My dream for TSU is a national smart technology innovation center to address the challenges of education and workforce issues—a center that would address issues across all professions, health care, business, etc., and we would be the center where we will have technology from all companies, Sony, Dell, Samsung and Apple. Name it, and they will come to us, Tennessee State, for the research, development and creativity,  and it will be ever-changing.”

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

23 Second-Year Male Students Complete Rite-of-Passage Mentoring Program; Initiative Inspires Young Males to Become Better Men

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Men’s Initiative, a character and integrity building program at Tennessee State University, is implementing a series of programs aimed to inspire young male students to become better men. 

Students who participated in the inaugural Rite of Passage mentoring program covered topics such as personal responsibility, values, communications, relationship building, and health and wellness. (Submitted Photo)

Recently, 23 second-year male students completed a semester-long Rite of Passage mentoring and leadership-training program conducted by the initiative. The students were pinned and honored in a ceremony before TSU administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community members in the Performing Arts Center on the main campus. 

“The goal of this program is to help these students to matriculate and graduate here at the university,” said Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students. “We want to make sure that they are successful by engaging them in things that help them in their matriculation, as it relates to character and integrity, and understanding the principles of being responsible young men.” 

The inaugural Rite of Passage process started in January, with interest meetings for the students and a training for the 13 TSU faculty and staff mentors who helped facilitate student development. It continued with a six-week curriculum that concluded with a final challenge in the seventh week. 

According to Robert Taylor, director of the TSU Men’s Initiative, participants were trained on personal responsibility, values, communication, relationship building, health and wellness, and African diaspora history. He said the program culminated with a mentor/mentee matching ritual that will continue for 15 weeks over the summer. All 23 students are expected to return to TSU in the fall, as certified mentors. 

“The Rite of Passage portion of the Men’s Initiative engages second-year male students in a series of workshops and mentorship programs to help them to transition from boyhood to manhood,” Taylor said. “Our ultimate purpose is to increase student persistence and to help these young men understand who they are as individuals, and what their role is in the community, and how they can further that through their education.” 

Travion Crutcher, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Hunstville, Alabama, was a member of the first class that participated in the Rite of Passage training. As a graduate, he returns next semester as a mentor. 

“I have always wanted to be able to help people find their way, because when I first came here, I didn’t know where to start and someone helped me,” said Crutcher, who plays cymbals in the TSU Aristocrat of Bands.  “I just like to be that person you can ask questions.” 

Taylor said in addition to the Rite of Passage, the Men’s Initiative, which is funded by Title III, also includes success coaching, where teams of coaches work with the students to make sure that they are taking advantage of all of the resources that are available to them. There is also the Men’s Empowerment Zone, Taylor said. 

“Empowerment Zone, which we are creating on the second floor of Boyd Hall, focuses on improving the actual physical environment for the students,” Taylor said.

When it is completed, Taylor said the empowerment zone will include a gym with equipment to help the men stay in shape, as well as upgrade the barbershop. He said a computer lab is also being developed in partnership with the Career Development Center, and there will be a conference center where students can do online interviews with potential employers.

For more information on the Tennessee State University Male Initiative, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/mancenter/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Ag officials hope tariffs not long term

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University agriculture officials say they hope President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods is not long term.

Last month, Trump announced that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would go up from 10 percent to 25 percent. The U.S. has also begun investigating whether $300 billion of other Chinese goods could be subject to tariffs.

And last week, the president announced a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods, starting June 10, if that country does not substantially halt illegal immigration across the border.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, said the tariffs are affecting producers, and that federal government subsidies may not be enough to help farmers who have to take out loans to make ends meet.

Trump unveiled a $16 billion bailout last month for farmers hurt by the trade war.

“It’s very unfortunate that agriculture gets caught in this crossfire,” Reddy said. “It’s not good for us, not good for the rest of the world. Hopefully this is short term.”

Finis Stribling is an area extension specialist and coordinator of the New Farmer Academy at TSU. He and a friend have a farm that grows cotton, corn, soybeans and rice, and they’re feeling the effect of the tariffs.

However, Stribling noted that vegetable farmers are not really affected right now, because they can set their prices.

“It just depends on what part of agriculture you’re in, whether it’s the vegetable market, the livestock market, or the grain market,” he said.

Farm groups have warned the White House against proposed new tariffs on Mexico, saying they could trigger retaliatory trade actions from Mexico and again impede exports to one of the top markets for U.S. crops and meat.  

The National Pork Producers Council, a trade group, estimated that tariffs over the last year from Mexico and China so far have cost U.S. pork producers $2.5 billion.

Despite the trade war, there is still interest in farming. Currently, more than 50 prospective farmers from across the country are participating in TSU’s New Farmer Academy, which covers topics like hydroponics and irrigation, farm equipment selection, and organic production.

Brian MacDonald travels from Orange County, California, to attend the seven-month class that meets the third Monday in each month. He said he’s aware of the effect tariffs are having on farmers, but he’s not letting it discourage him from becoming an organic farmer.

“I have this dream of owning a farm,” said MacDonald, who is a retired president and chief financial officer for an electronics company. “It’s a dream I’ve had for the last couple of years.”

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.