Campus News

UK, USDA break ground on new forage research building

ARS Administrator Simon Liu, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Sen. Mitch McConnell, UK-CAFE Dean Nancy Cox and UK President Eli Capilouto. Arden Barnes l UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2023) — U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell joined officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (UK-CAFE) today in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $65.9 million Forage Animal Production Lab on UK’s campus.

“Today’s groundbreaking for the Forage Animal Production Lab speaks to the heart of what a land-grant institution, like ours, is so distinctively positioned to do – to take basic scientific discovery and apply that knowledge to applications that can be transferred directly to producers,” said UK President Eli Capilouto.”

The new facility housing the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) is targeted for completion in 2026 and will encompass approximately 52,600 total square feet of office, support and research laboratory space, as well as a collaborative area, headhouse and eight-bay greenhouses.

“For a long time, I’ve said Kentucky’s farmers are some of the best in the world. As a senior member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and Appropriations Committee, I’ve firmly focused my career on supporting agricultural communities across the Commonwealth, and this research facility builds on that commitment in a big way,” said Senator McConnell. “I was proud to do my part and help secure $65.9 million in federal funding to establish this new lab at the University of Kentucky. Thank you, President Capilouto, Dean Cox and Secretary Vilsack for your partnership on this project.”

The mission of the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) in Lexington is to improve the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of forage-based enterprises that raise beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats — particularly operators of small- to medium-sized farms.

“Agricultural research bolsters economic growth and enhances food quality and safety all while combatting the climate crisis,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s groundbreaking builds on more than two decades of partnership with the University of Kentucky, while demonstrating USDA’s latest commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible for agriculture, and to creating profitable and sustainable systems, rooted in science, that will advance farmers’ production for years to come.”

The completion of a the new FAPRU building will usher in important design upgrades and functionality, more opportunities for collaboration, and an expanded research capacity to support forage-based farm enterprises in Kentucky and other Transition Zone states.

The new FAPRU building will be staffed by six ARS scientists and seven UK researchers, along with laboratory technicians and administrative personnel. Research conducted there, among other projects, will include developing sustainable forage systems to ensure the performance and health of beef cattle and small ruminants such as sheep and goats; minimizing the incidence of tall fescue toxicosis and evaluating the potential of natural antibiotic alternatives to improve nitrogen efficiency and reduce enteric methane emissions by cattle.

“This new facility will ensure continued innovative research for grazing-related industries,” said Nancy Cox, vice president for Land-grant Engagement and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We are grateful to Leader McConnell for taking our partnership with ARS to a new level.”

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America.

“This work and these efforts, of course, also would not be possible without partners like those in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, represented by Secretary Vilsack and the members of his team who are with us today,” Capilouto said. “Senator McConnell has been our steady and steadfast partner in our mission to transform and advance this state – from cancer care to translational science, from the scourge of opioid misuse to the agricultural innovations we are celebrating today, he has pushed and supported us to do and be more for the state we all serve. The bottom line is this: the $65.9 million that is making this lab a reality would not have happened without Sen. McConnell’s strong support and unyielding leadership.”

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.