Resident commissioner seeks federal funding for new food security center
By The Star Staff
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón over the weekend inspected the work of what will be the new Center for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, for which she asked the U.S. House Appropriations Committee for federal funding.
The resident commissioner met with Barranquitas Mayor Elliot Colón; Interamerican University interim president Rafael Ramírez; Interamerican University of Puerto Rico Barranquitas Campus Chancellor Juan Negrón; and scientists, professors and students from the Institute of Sustainable Biotechnology (ISBiot) at the Barranquitas Campus, which will house the new center.
“Puerto Rico imports over 80% of the food we consume. These are alarming figures, which is why I have always defended aid to boost agricultural production on the island,” González Colón said. “Specifically, this center seeks to contribute to food security by working with proposals to increase the volume and value of agricultural production on the island. An example of their work was after the destruction of crops by Hurricane Maria, where the Institute launched its banana seed micropropagation project to help this agricultural sector add jobs.”
The resident commissioner requested $941,975 to continue construction work on the Center for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, which would develop in vitro seeds and provide technical assistance on this type of planting to local researchers and farmers, improving agricultural production, food security and economic development in the central region of Puerto Rico.
The resident commissioner included the project as one of her 15 fiscal year 2023 appropriation requests under the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Research Facility Construction account, which funds the construction and renovation of research facilities.
Through the center, the municipalities of Barranquitas, as well as neighboring Orocovis, Aibonito, Comerio and Corozal would have access to healthy seeds all year round. The advancements made possible by the center would promote sustainable agriculture in communities across the island, as well as climate resilience and food security.
When fully operational, the center could produce more than 100,000 in vitro plants each year, which is much faster than using traditional farming methods and would be available during any time of the year, regardless of natural disasters.
The center can train farmers in areas including biocontrol strategies for pest control, reduction in the use of chemical pesticides, conservation of soil and water resources, development of business plans, and marketing.
ISBiot receives other federal funds, including the STEM Grant for Hispanic-Serving Institutions from the National Science Foundation, and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.