A bill that includes almost $45 million in funding for the construction of an agricultural education complex at Texas A&M University-Commerce passed to the Governor's desk on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 52, which was filed on October 12 during the third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature, was signed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on October 19. It approves the issuance of revenue bonds to fund capital projects at multiple public higher education institutions across the state.
The bill calls for A&M-Commerce to receive $44,922,833 for the completion of a proposed ag complex. The complex would provide A&M-Commerce with food processing labs, field labs, and space for educational conferences, agricultural expos and competitions.
The proposed complex will serve the people of rural and urban Texas as a dynamic hub for agricultural research, teaching, economic development, international student exchange, and knowledge transfer initiatives in a wide range of fields, including sustainable agriculture, animal science, urban agriculture, equine studies and more.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the regional demand for training and consulting is escalating as small businesses and local growers are being asked to supply sustainable food sources to prevent future food shortages across the state. This facility would help provide the educational opportunities needed to help alleviate these issues.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, industries related to food and agriculture contribute $1.053 trillion to the U.S. GDP. A&M-Commerce features the fastest-growing agriculture program in Texas, having increased in size by 90% in the last five years. The university is poised to teach the next generation of agriculture industry professionals.
Randy Harp, Ph.D., dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A&M-Commerce, touted the impact that this new facility will have on agricultural education in the region.
“These facilities will be transformational for our university and for East Texas. The value of education, both teaching and research, will be immeasurable for our students for many years to come,” Harp said. “At the same time, the economic impact for this region of the state will truly benefit all citizens. I am excited and proud to have the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A&M Commerce represent and serve our stakeholders in the agricultural industry for East Texas.“
Cece Gassner, vice president for research and economic development at A&M-Commerce, expects the completion of the agriculture complex to be an economic boon for the region.
“The new agriculture complex will bring an economic boost to East Texas,” Gassner said. “The design and construction of the facility will create jobs in the region. Research to be conducted in the facility will positively affect farmers and ranchers in the area on an ongoing basis, and the facility will attract visitors from around Texas and surrounding states, which should result in more jobs and revenue for local businesses.”
A&M-Commerce President Mark Rudin, Ph.D, wasted no time thanking the legislators, administrators and support staff who championed the bill.
“This is a momentous day for A&M-Commerce. We are so grateful for everyone who worked hard to make this happen, including State Representative Gary VanDeaver, Senator Bryan Hughes, Legislative Liaison Matt Parson and the A&M System Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Jenny Jones,” Rudin said. “The new ag complex will attract industries, inspire partnerships, open doors to research and education opportunities, and make A&M-Commerce a premier destination for agricultural events and programs. The new facility will further establish A&M-Commerce as the major hub of ag education in East Texas.”
In total, more than $727 million was designated for Texas A&M University System member institutions. System Chancellor John Sharp thanked Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, Sen. Brandon Creighton, Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Greg Bonnen for their leadership and all of the members of the House and Senate who supported the legislation.
“We are gratified by the confidence the Legislature shows in The Texas A&M System to be good stewards of tax dollars,” Sharp said. “We will continue to earn that trust as we serve the students and citizens of this great state.”