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Lincoln’s land grant funds could get boost in Senate

by Ryan Pivoney | April 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

As the state budget process moves to the Missouri Senate, Lincoln University could be looking at more land grant funding.

The final House version of the budget provides Lincoln with $5.3 million for its land grant match, the same funding recommended by Gov. Mike Parson that is roughly half of what's required to meet a corresponding federal match.

There was an unsuccessful bipartisan push to secure more funding for LU throughout the budget process in the lower chamber, in committee and when the legislation hit the House floor.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said the Senate has been following the House budget process and will soon determine what its own budget will look like.

Bernskoetter said in his discussions with Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee was talking about an LU land grant appropriation in the $10 million range.

"I'm sure there will be some differences (between the House and Senate) and hopefully we can work out those differences in conference," Bernskoetter said.

Lincoln University is one of the state's two historically Black universities and one of the state's two land grant institutions. The state has underfunded the university's land grant mission by not matching a federal grant worth nearly $10 million for more than 30 years.

LU is eligible for up to $17.3 million in combined state and federal funds each year because of its designation as a land grant institution. Federal requirements for the grant require states to entirely match national funds or risk them being withheld.

The funds go entirely toward supporting agriculture research, teaching and extension programs.

Conversations surroundings Lincoln's land grant funding have been floating around the Legislature for years, University President John Moseley said, and he believes more lawmakers are beginning to understand the value LU Cooperative Research and Extension provides to Missouri farmers and the agriculture industry.

LU extension serves about 47 counties throughout Missouri with a variety of agriculture resources and information.

"We do have the expectation that with greater funding we could have a greater impact and spread our resources further across the state," Moseley said. "That would be our plan."

And lawmakers in the House tried to pass that greater funding.

Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, offered an amendment on the floor to fully fund Lincoln's land grant match at $10.3 million, but the motion failed.

Windham also offered an amendment to use $43 million in state funds to pay the university back for years the General Assembly has failed to pay the full federal match, which also failed on the House floor.

While the $10 million appropriation could make it through the Senate and across the finish line, paying the university a lump sum to make up for the past would likely be a heavier lift, Bernskoetter said.

"I don't really know that I want to put that whole $40 million in there, but I think over time we should eventually try to catch that up, try to gradually get back to where Lincoln should be," he said. "Or should've been, I guess."

Windham also brought forth a plan to cut state funds appropriated for the University of Missouri, the state's other land grant institution, and transfer them to Lincoln. The effort failed, but the House ultimately made Mizzou's land grant appropriation a separate line item.

Mizzou is set to receive $30 million for its land grant mission, according to the budget passed by the House. Its land grant appropriations have historically been rolled into its core appropriation from the state, making it more difficult for lawmakers to target for cuts.

Moseley said there is no competition between Lincoln and Mizzou. The two land grant universities often work together on research and extension services, he pointed out.

"We're really fortunate, as a state, to have these two land grant institutions only 30 miles apart and with a really good working relationship," Moseley said. "We see support for the land grant as a benefit to the entire state."

He said the additional funding could support more collaboration with other state institutions of higher education.

In addition to Mizzou, Lincoln has collaborated with Truman State University and Northwest Missouri State University on agricultural projects, including its research on industrial hemp.

Moseley said the university appreciates the support lawmakers and the governor have shown so far and is excited to see the extensive discussions surrounding the funding continue.

"Because of the conversation, greater attention will be turned to the fact that there is a deficit in the state's funding compared to the federal match," Moseley said. "Hopefully, throughout the session it will continue to be a topic of conversation."

Besides the land grant funding, the House budget includes $19.2 million in core funding for Lincoln University and $20 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to develop a health sciences and crisis center on campus.

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